Monday, January 09, 2006

London Free Press article, Jan 9 06
Mourners laud Layton
Mon, January 9, 2006
The Nobel- nominated poet, 93, was buried in Montreal.

MONTREAL -- Irving Layton, whose poetry earned him a Nobel Prize nomination, was remembered yesterday as a man who inspired people to lofty goals with his words and yet viewed the world with a playful optimism.

"He was like a boy, he was my wild, peculiar boy," Anna Pottier, his fifth wife, said after a service at a west-end funeral home.

"We were like two girls in a dorm, basically, talking and talking and laughing and talking and travelling."

Layton, who died Wednesday at age 93, was known by some as provocative and abrasive but Pottier spoke of the man who playfully tried to swipe bagels from a bakery and saw hope in blades of grass poking through cracks in city sidewalks.

Federal Justice Minister Irwin Cotler, who addressed the mourners at the funeral, later invoked Layton's "transformative impact" on the lives of Canadians and his outrage at injustice.

Cotler, who met Layton when the poet taught him in Grade 7, credited the poet with teaching him "how to think."

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

But it was as a literary icon that poet-singer Leonard Cohen remembered his friend. He brought one of Layton's books to the service and read from it.

"He is our greatest poet," Cohen said afterward. "Our greatest champion of poetry and 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.

"There is no doubt generations to come will learn these verses and they will transcend any positions, any political strategies, any literary strategies. They're here, they're written in stone and they'll be read for a long, long time."


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