Saturday, January 07, 2006

An Act of Kindness, blog entry, Jan 06
by Todd Swift, London, UK
Canada's Greatest Poet Dies

Irving Layton - Canada's greatest modern poet - and the most lyrically agonistic and antagonistic - has died, at 93, in Montreal, in the dead of winter. If Bloom is right - and he surely is - then Layton is the strong poet so many of the younger poets of my generation wrestled with, along with Klein and Cohen.

As Leonard Cohen has said: "I taught him how to dress - he taught me how to live forever."

One personal anecdote, which illuminates how generous and grandiose and dramatic Layton could be:

15 years ago, when I was 24, I mailed him a small selection of poems I'd written with a note asking if he thought I had what it took to be a poet - well, a few weeks pass, when one Sunday afternoon the phone rings at a friend's home (eccentric Boston poet Eric Sigler) - how he ever tracked me down, I don't know! - so, Eric hands me the phone, with a droll smile, saying "It's Irving Layton, for you" (shades of "Paging Mr. Superman") - and Layton, exuberant and helpful and lovely, tells me he has read my sheaf of poems, and assures me I have talent, should keep going, and wishes me well in my career as a poet. I've never forgotten that act of kindness, and it has marked my own work to encourage other poets, and inspired me to keep writing.

The T.S. Review humbly offers a cut and pasted The Globe & Mail article.

I should add, the lack of notice - so far - in the British press is disgraceful, if somewhat par for the course.


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