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Irving Layton, 93
Thread Started on Jan 4, 2006, 5:11pm ยป
Canadian poet Irving Layton dies at 93
Wednesday, January 4, 2006

Canadian poet Irving Layton died Wednesday in a Montreal care facility where had been living since 2000.

The 93-year old poet, who was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature, had been suffering from Alzheimer's disease. At his death, he was surrounded by several caregivers and his long-time friend, Musia Schwartz at the Maimonides Geriatric Centre in Montreal.

For an in depth look at the poet's life and death, see Thursday's Globe and Mail.

Born in the small Romanian town of Tirgul Neamt in 1912 to Jewish parents, Mr. Layton emigrated to Canada in 1913. His family settled in Montreal, where he grew up a poor neighbourhood around St. Urbain Street.

His often boisterous behaviour and anti-bourgeois attitude earned him as many admirers as it did detractors, and his notoriety became legendary among Canadian poets.

In the 1930's, while a student at MacDonald College, his socialist writing led to him later being blacklisted from entering the U.S. for nearly 15 years.

In the 1940's, along with fellow Canadian poets John Sutherland, Raymond Souster, and Louis Dudek, Mr. Layton railed against the older generation of poets, including Northrop Frye. Their efforts helped define the tone of the post-war generation poets in Canada. They argued that modern poetry should set its own style, independent of the British style, and reflect the social realities of the day.

Though he spent much of his career as a teacher, first at a high school then as a political science professor at Sir George Williams University (now Concordia), York University, and lectured at a number of universities across the country, his true passion and fame arose from poetry.

Among his students were poet/songwriter Leonard Cohen and media magnate Moses Znaimer. Mr. Cohen was said of Mr. Layton: "I taught him how to dress, he taught me how to live forever."

His star rose dramatically in the early 1950's after the publication of a collection of poems called The Black Huntsmen. He became a staple on the CBC televised debating program Fighting Words, where he earned a reputation as a fierce debater.

Among his many awards during his prolific career was the Governor-General's Award for A Red Carpet for the Sun, the first of many to be produced for the publishing house McClelland & Stewart in 1959.

Mr. Layton was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1981, but eventually lost to Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

He was named to the Order of Canada in 1976.

Mr. Layton was married five times and fathered four children.

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