Monday, January 09, 2006

Gritty & Satiric, University of Toronto News Digest,, Jan 5 06

Poet Irving Layton dies in Montreal at age 93 [Go to Story]

Irving Layton, whose gritty, satiric and erotic poems left an indelible mark on Canada's literary landscape, died Wednesday. He was 93...

Magdalene Redekop, who teaches Canadian poetry at the University of Toronto, saluted Layton despite her beliefs.

"He was an extremely uneven poet, but at his best he was fabulous and would rank among the top poets in the world.... But he wrote some really lousy poems.''

Among her favourite poems by Layton are A Tall Man Executes a Jig; A Cold Green Element; and Whatever Else, Poetry Is Freedom.

"Those are poems that even when I think about them now I get goosebumps. Those three are the kinds of poems that make your hair stand on end.''

Redekop, who's now teaching a class on Canadian love poetry, says she had assigned one of Layton's poems to her students and then had a change of heart.

"I decided that I simply couldn't tolerate teaching it, that it made my stomach turn, it was so sexist. 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.''
CTV News
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Irving Layton, poet: 1912-2006 [Go to Story]

He was fond of referring to himself in the same breath as Shakespeare, Wordsworth and Keats, but, for all his bombast, Irving Layton was a grand poet who wrote at least a dozen poems that will keep his name and his reputation alive. A prolific letter writer, a mentor to generations of younger poets, including Leonard Cohen and Al Purdy, he brought an energy and an excitement to the writing of poetry in Canada beginning in the 1950s...

“Irving was like a one-man promotion machine for Canadian poetry in the 1950s,” said literary critic Sam Solecki, at a time when a bestseller sold maybe 250 copies in this country. “There was an energy that almost every reviewer, even those who didn't like him much at the start, recognized.” The University of Toronto English professor wrote the introduction to a selected edition of Mr. Layton's poetry, A Wild Peculiar Joy (published by M&S in 2004). Mr. Layton, said Prof. Solecki, always insisted that Canadian poetry be measured against the best of European, American and British work. “There was that historical moment when he made a huge statement that poetry is important and it's got to be modern.” What made Mr. Layton special as a mentor and a teacher, said Prof. Solecki, was the way he nurtured younger poets without trying to turn them into models of himself. He was like Nietzsche, who said the best student is the one who goes beyond the master. And he left behind stellar poems such as: A Tall Man Executes a Jig, The Swimmer, The Birth of Tragedy, Song for Naomi, The Cold Green Element, On Seeing the Statute of Ezekiel and Jeremiah in the Church of Notre Dame, Keine Lavorivitch: 1870-1959, The Tightrope Dancer and A Wild Peculiar Joy.
Globe and Mail

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