Friday, January 13, 2006

I Remember by D. Bukowski, Globe & Mail, Jan 12 06
Thursday, January 12, 2006 Page S7

Irving Layton

Toronto literary agent Denise Bukowski writes about Irving Layton, whose obituary appeared on Jan. 5.

"I have just written the best book of my entire life." Irving Layton was back from Greece and the words rolled off his tongue like buttery sunlight. When was this? Every year between 1973 and 1979, when I was his editor at McClelland & Stewart. And every year we published that book. We knew that, if we didn't, someone else surely would, and his collections, unlike most poetry, always made money. My job was to make the volume the best it could be, and Irving loved the push and shove of pummelling it into shape. One year, after the mud-wrestling was done, I went on vacation. When I came back, I found poems we had taken out of the manuscript in the published book; he had called the proofreader to say there had been a terrible mistake -- poems were missing!

But how could you not adore a man who spent most of his free time in European caf├ęs and still spelled espresso with an x? Who drove the wrong way down one-way streets and couldn't navigate a driveway without hitting a house? He was so outrageously charming, so cagey, and so blessedly free of writer's angst that every one of those books was an adventure and a joy. Even when he outsmarted me, which was often. Once, I discovered that some poems in a "new" collection had already appeared in his Collected Poems. When I raised the matter, he chortled with his usual bravado, "Well, you can't blame me for trying."

Readers are invited to send 250-word reminiscences about people who have been the subject of a recent obituary (not a death notice) in The Globe. Submissions about a friend, colleague or loved one may be sent to: Obituaries Editor, The Globe and Mail, 444 Front St. W., Toronto, Ont., M5V 2S9. E-mail:


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