Brief bio sketch

Lloyd Haft (1946- ) was born in Sheboygan, Wisconsin USA and lived as a boy in Wisconsin, Louisiana and Kansas. In 1968 he graduated from Harvard College and went to Leiden, The Netherlands for graduate study in Chinese (M. A. 1973, Ph. D. 1981). From 1973 to 2004 he taught Chinese language and literature, mostly poetry, at Leiden. His sinological publications include Pien Chih-lin: A Study in Modern Chinese Poetry (1983/2011; published in Chinese translation as 发现卞之琳: 一位西方学者的探索之旅 in 2010) and Zhou Mengdie’s Poetry of Consciousness (2006).



He has translated extensively into English from the Dutch of Herman Gorter and Willem Hussem, and from the Chinese of various poets including Lo Fu, Yang Lingye, Bian Zhilin and Zhou Mengdie.



Since the 1980s he has also been active as a poet writing in Dutch and English. He was awarded the Jan Campert Prize for his 1993 bilingual volume Atlantis and the Ida Gerhardt Prize for his 2003 Dutch free-verse readings of the Psalms (republished by Uitgeverij Vesuvius in 2011). His most recent book of poems (in Dutch) is Deze poelen, deze geest (2008). His newer poems are published (some republished) on this blog.



After early retirement in 2004, for a number of years Lloyd Haft spent much of his time in Taiwan with his wife Katie Su. In addition to writing and translating, his interests include Song-dynasty philosophy and taiji quan. He sings in the choir of a Roman Catholic church of the Eastern Rite in The Hague.



Friday, November 8, 2013

Poems by Willem Hussem (Part 1)


Willem Hussem (1900-1974) was a Dutch artist and poet of the post-World War II period. After decades of experiment and development, in the 1960s he came out with a strong voice of his own in both fields, producing works that are still being studied and appreciated. Opinions differ as to why he did not win greater fame. It has been suggested that he would have done better to live in the wide-open world of Amsterdam rather than staying in The Hague, or better still to emigrate to the United States. In any case, in the Netherlands of his day it was not easy for artists of other plumages to compete with the better publicized painters associated with the Cobra group.
        Hussem’s poetry reflects his artistic and philosophical interest in the Far East. He wrote more than a thousand short, trenchant poems: a genre that in Dutch was sometimes called just the korte gedicht or ‘short poem,’ and sometimes jokingly ‘white poetry’ because the printed pages remained mostly white. Built mostly on visual perceptions and nature images, his poems sometimes suggest the haiku but do not stick to its conventions and restrictions. In 1965 Hussem was awarded the Jan Campert Prize for Dutch poetry.
Though Hussem did not read Chinese, he published well-considered reworkings of classical Chinese verse based on existing translations. His versions of the Tang-dynasty poet Wang Wei, in particular, are among the best I have ever seen.
His best-liked poems have been reprinted in various editions. I have consulted the originals in volumes titled Zet het blauw van de zee..., Zienderogen, Ruimte vergt jaren groei, Met inkt zeggen, Motet, Voor twee scharren blauwbekken, Breels aan de vleet, and Schaduw van de hand.


(1) 

people are clouds
wherever they come
it's overcast

(2)

put the blue
of the sea
up against the blue
of the sky
brush the white
of a sail into it
and the wind
comes up

(3)

by the hearth
all that wood
for a single fire

warmth takes years
to grow


(4)

scoop up water
from the rain barrel
don't wait till it's
a cloud again


(5)

rural the setting
by dusky light
a house in an older style
the owner asks me in
the wooden walls surrounding
don’t hem me in
unnoticed at first my host
ferries me across a river
we moor by a green piece of land
in the same dusky light
this ground goes with the house he says
and leaves me alone


(6)

vanished stars
shining still
in the night
dying can’t
hold back light

(7)

where the trees blossom
where the fruits come
the top of the mountain
stays under snow

(8)

whether you laugh
or cry
you’re on your way

(9)

the setting sun
ripens in the trees
at the end of the path

(10)

last year
a dead branch
now glowing charcoal

(11)

the river
that can’t talk
tells of sunset

(12)

high in the mountains
there are no more paths
only the rain
finds a way

(13)

the ebb took longing along
the flood brings it back in breakers

(14)

last night sea and sky
were one
now at dawn’s coming
they drift apart

(15)

cloudless sky
motionless sea
horizon as a hinge
a shell opens

(16)

in the silence of morning
the cry of an oriole
the sound colors the forest

(17)

in one leap
a fish splits the cloud
on the water’s surface

(18)

now that the sun shines
the mud glistens

(19)

at the moment
you asked me for a match
lightning struck
fire and wind now
blazing between us


(20)

shadows shoving
across the land
climbing the dune
gliding into the ocean
dark fishes
leaving shore behind

--translated by Lloyd Haft