Saturday, January 07, 2006

Words Cannot do Justice (and Layton poem), blog entry, Jan 5 06
Irving Layton Is Dead: 1912-2006
by Pete
January 05

The great Jewish Canadian poet Irving Layton is dead. He died yesterday at the age of 93.

Leonard Cohen said yesterday from Montreal, "There was Irving Layton, and then there was the rest of us. He is our greatest poet, our greatest champion of poetry. Alzheimer's could not silence him, and neither will death."

- Globe and Mail

Layton was a great poet, at times vulgar and offensive, but still a great poet. My words cannot do Layton justice so please find below one of Layton's own poems.



Like a sponge the poet soaks up the sewage
of evil trespass and self-delusion
running through the ruts of this dark epoch.
His head is a black cloud about to burst.
From his own self must come light and truth,
the long-awaited word to stifle discord ;
let it be plain as cut parsnip on a plate
or the wall of his house when sunlight strikes.
Utterance alone can heal the ailing spirit
and make man and poet a single self ;
bring back on the long vein of memory
the laughter and wholeness of childhood.
Never will he beg off from his pursuit
as did Isaiah though he sees too plain
how impurity and self-betrayal
make the prophet’s voice clunk like a cracked bell.
In the creative word lies redemption.
At the darkest hour somewhere the sun,
the life-giving sun, turns feculent swamps
into grasslands where gazelles run and play.
Let it burn out the eyes of his sockets.
He’ll stare it down into the terrorized cities ;
bring his human fears to it as to a bonfire
and hear his voice chime like a carillon.

(1982 – A Wild Peculiar Joy: Selected Poems 1945-1982,
Toronto, McClelland & Stewart, 1982)


Wow, that's quite the compliment coming from someone like Leonard Cohen. I'll have to look up some more of Layton's stuff.

I particularly liked this line:

"In the creative word lies redemption."

But then I do have a bias.
Published By April - January 06 5:55 AM


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