Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Vancouver article Jan 4

Poet Irving Layton dies in Montreal at 93

Canadian Press
Published: January 4, 2006

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

Diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 1994, Layton died in a long-term care facility surrounded by caregivers and long-time friend Musia Schwartz, said Lisa Blobstein, spokeswoman for the Maimonides Geriatric Centre.

Blobstein said Schwartz told her that Layton had kept his sense of humour until the end.

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 the CanLit hierarchy.

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

Among Layton's former students was Justice Minister Irwin Cotler, Blobstein said.

Layton was the first non-Italian to receive Italy's Petrarch Award for Poetry.

The poet died early Wednesday morning suffering from the late stages of the disease, said Blobstein.

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 neighbourhood 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 declared in 1972.
© Canadian Press 2006


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