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). His most recent book, a liberal modern Dutch reading of Laozi's Daode jing, was published as Lau-tze's vele wegen by Synthese in September 2017.



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 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.



Tuesday, April 14, 2015

What Do I Think Death Is?


This spring, coming back to Holland after a wonderful carefree winter in Taiwan and Japan, I have been confronted from nearby with a sudden health crisis faced by a 92-year-old friend. The prognosis is still unclear: as the Dutch say, ‘Could freeze, could thaw.’
        Since I live nearby the eye of the storm as it were, I have been sending brief ‘reports’ by email to a few concerned friends. One of them was written shortly after an unflinching conversation in which the possibility of stopping medication was considered. Such discussions involve whatever one does or does not think about The Last Things, and in relating the main points in writing, I found myself formulating with unusual succinctness my own view as of right now (I’m 68).
        In Dutch, what I said was: ‘Ik geloof persoonlijk dat het fysiek-belichaamde leven noch het enige, noch het beste leven is dat er is. Wat de meeste mensen het "sterven" noemen en ik liever The Great Upload, is niet het einde ergens van. Het is het verder waarmaken van een wijder perspectief.’
        Then I got to translating it into English. What I came up with was: ‘Personally, I do not believe that physically embodied life is either the only or the best life there is. What most people call "dying" and I prefer to call The Great Upload, is not the end of anything. It is the continuing substantiation of a wider perspective.’
        As so often, although I felt the translation was a pretty good representation of what I meant, something had been lost in the process. The Dutch word ‘waarmaken,’ which I made into ‘substantiation,’ can or does indeed mean ‘substantiate,’ as well as ‘live up to’ in the sense of ‘living up to a promise.’ But the very structure of the word, its being a combination of ‘waar’ meaning ‘true’ and ‘maken’ meaning ‘make’...somehow conveys an added glint of ‘making it true,’ making something which was only potential into an actuality.

        Does this mean I think you have to die before you become immortal? Certainly not. Like William Blake, I believe the apps that enable our immortality, so to speak, are already installed and running during our life in this visible world. Normally we are not aware of them because the shine or glare of immediate exigencies bears in on us more insistently. But let’s defer that discussion for later. Or for Later...

--Lloyd Haft

April 14, 2015