Monday, January 09, 2006

Our Greatest Poet, Edmonton Sun, Jan 9 06

http://www.edmontonsun.com/Entertainment/OtherEntertainment/2006/01/09/1385387-sun.html
Partially republished Canadian Press article by N. Wyatt, Jan 8.

Farewell to Canada's 'greatest poet'

By CP

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 yesterday's funeral service.

"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.

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 afterwards.

Layton died in a long-term care facility after a lengthy battle with Alzheimer's disease.

Pottier, who separated from Layton after his diagnosis in 1995, said it was hard to see him go downhill. "To have watched a mountain be reduced to grains of sand - it was beyond me," she said.

A prolific writer, Layton published more than 40 books of poetry and prose. He was named to the Order of Canada in 1976, held several university posts as poet- or writer-in-residence and was twice nominated for the Nobel Prize for literature.

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