Lloyd Haft (Sheboygan, Wisconsin, 1946) moved from the United States to the Netherlands when he was 22. Now retired, he taught Chinese language and poetry at Leiden University until 2004. As a translator and compiler Lloyd Haft has collaborated on several anthologies of, and publications about Chinese poetry. Haft’s special interest is the interaction between Western and Chinese poetry. In 2000 he published a study on the Chinese sonnet.
In 2003 Haft published his eighth volume of poetry Psalmen (Psalms), for which he received the Ida Gerhardt Prize in 2004. Ten years earlier he was awarded the Jan Campert Prize for his collection Atlantis (1993). Haft writes his poems in Dutch and English. He himself points to early twentieth-century American poetry, the Judaic-Christian scriptural and liturgical tradition and mysticism as important influences on his work. The Chinese poetry he has studied for so long also leaves its marks in Haft’s poems.
In the epilogue to his new versions of the psalms, Haft writes: “Yet we still write poems and still reflect upon (if we are so inclined) about god. Doing both things at the same time has long been out of fashion.” Haft’s being so inclined and his indifference to fashion were already apparent from his earlier collections.
In his prize-winning volume Psalmen he reversifies the original text of the Psalms in a very free manner, giving expression to a contemporary, strongly personal religiosity. ‘Seeing’ is of great importance here: “See how my eyes remain:/ open, always on you” (‘After Psalm 141’) or “see me into spaces/ of the one Who sees” (‘After Psalm 138’).
Apart from his own poetry, Haft has published many translations of poems, from English into Dutch, of modern American poets such as Wallace Stevens, Hart Crane, William Carlos Williams, and vice versa of Dutch poets such as Gerrit Kouwenaar, Miriam Van hee, Anna Enquist and H.H. ter Balkt.