Sunday, January 08, 2006

Funeral & Video Clips, CTV. ca, Jan 8 06
Updated Sun. Jan. 8 2006 7:40 PM ET News Staff
Family, friends remember poet Irving Layton

Family and friends bid farewell to Irving Layton Sunday, remembering the poet as a gifted genius who evoked the harsh realities of life.

"There was Irving Layton, and then there was the rest of us," friend and one-time student Leonard Cohen said after the funeral.

"He is our greatest poet; our greatest champion of poetry. These lines will endure and there is no sadness, no lamentation, no sorrow, no regret at this moment, because that which Irving loved the best, which was his work, will survive him."

Layton had been suffering from Alzheimer's disease before he died Wednesday at the age of 93. His funeral was held in Montreal.

After he taught Cohen poetry, the two became very close friends. Other former students include broadcast leader Moses Znaimer and Liberal Justice Minister Irwin Cotler, who both attended the funeral.

"I learned how to struggle for justice and the only way you can do that is by struggling against injustice," Cotler said.

"Irving Layton felt the injustice around him. His poetry was a means of conveying that message of injustice and mobilizing us in that struggle."

Over five decades, Layton published more than 40 books of poetry and prose, in the process writing such famous works as A Tall Man Executes a Jig.

He first gained prominence after the publication of his book A Red Carpet for the Sun, which won a Governor General's Award in 1959. Less than 20 years later, he was named to the Order of Canada.

His poems have been taught to students across the country, although until recently ,his work was largely out of print.

"He is badly neglected,'' McGill University English professor Brian Trehearne told The Canadian Press. "How could we let this happen?''

Many of Layton's poems depicted his love for women, often written in graphic, bawdy language. Some feminist scholars have found his poetry sexist.

Magdalene Redekop, who teaches poetry at the University of Toronto, said some of his poetry is incredibly powerful, but has reservations about Layton's opinion of women.

She decided not to assign one poem to her students because "it was so sexist," she told CP.

"He was a profoundly sexist man, and relentlessly so. But for me as a feminist ... to concede the poems of his that are fantastic is something.''

Layton was born in a small Romanian town in 1912, under the name Israel Lazarovitch. His family immigrated to Montreal the following year.

He was nominated for the Nobel Prize for literature twice.

"I am a genius who has written poems that will survive with the best of Shakespeare, Wordsworth and Keats,'' Layton once said.

With files from The Canadian Press


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