Monday, January 09, 2006

Top of Canada's Literary Hierarchy, NY Sun, Jan 6 06
Irving Layton, 93, Dean of Canadian Poets
By Associated Press
January 6, 2006

Irving Layton, a Nobel Prize-nominated poet and one of Canada's most influential writers, died Wednesday at a Montreal hospital. He was 93 and had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease a decade ago.

A prolific writer, Layton published more than 40 books of poetry and prose over more than five decades, clawing his way to the top of Canada's literary hierarchy.

Layton was named to the Order of Canada in 1976 - Canada's highest honor. He held several university posts as poet or writer-in-residence and was nominated for a Nobel Prize in literature in 1982.

Born Israel Lazarovitch in Romania on March 12, 1912, Layton was the seventh and final child of Moses, a Jewish bookkeeper, and his wife Klara.

When Layton was a year old, the family emigrated to Canada, settling in a tough, multiethnic neighborhood in Montreal.

Its mean streets later became the backdrop for many of his graphic, often bawdy poems.

He seemed to revel in his raucous reputation; the more critics sneered, the more provocative and abrasive he became.

"I am a genius who has written poems that will survive with the best of Shakespeare, Wordsworth, and Keats," Layton said in 1972.

His gritty, satiric and erotic poems often shocked critics in the 1940s and 1950s.

"He was as famous as a Canadian writer could get at the time," McGill University English professor Brian Trehearne said.


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