Friday, January 06, 2006

A Great Poem, waydownhere.net, Jan 4 06

http://www.waydownhere.net/
Posted by Bob
January 4, 2006

"I want to be remembered as someone who believed that a great poem was the noblest work of man and that no one ever wrote one who didn't want to get out of hell."

Irving Layton, 1912 - 2006

"Whatever Else Poetry is Freedom", A Tribute, blog entry, Jan 5 06

http://gbd283.blogspot.com/
by Garry, Ottawa, Ontario
January 5, 2006

Farewell, Irving

No, not John Irving but Irving Layton - one of Canada's most important - and controversial - poets. He was a Jewish writer from Montreal, contemporary with Mordecai Richler, A.M. Klein, Al Purdy, as well as mentor to later poets, particularly Leonard Cohen. He is a great favourite of mine, as he is, I feel, the Canadian equivalent to D.H. Lawrence. Read more about him here and here. In tribute, here's a favourite Layton poem of mine:

Whatever Else Poetry is Freedom

Whatever else poetry is freedom.
Forget the rhetoric, the trick of lying
All poets pick up sooner or later. From the river,
Rising like the thin voice of grey castratos - the mist;
Poplars and pines grow straight but oaks are gnarled;
Old codgers must speak of death, boys break windows,
Women lie honestly by their men at last.

And I who gave my Kate a blackened eye
Did to its vivid changing colours
Make up an incredible musical scale;
And now I balance on wooden stilts and dance
And thereby sing to the loftiest casements.
See how with polish I bow from the waist.
Space for these stilts! More space or I fail!

And a crown I say for my buffoon's head.
Yet no more fool am I than King Canute,
Lord of our tribe, who scanned and scorned;
Who half-deceived, believed; and, poet, missed
The first white waves come nuzzling at his feet;
Then damned the courtiers and the foolish trial
With a most bewildering and unkingly jest.

It was the mist. It lies inside one like a destiny.
A real Jonah it lies rotting like a lung.
And I know myself undone who am a clown
And wear a wreath of mist for a crown;
Mist with the scent of dead apples,
Mist swirling from black oily waters at evening,
Mist from the fraternal graves of cemeteries.

It shall drive me to beg my food and at last
Hurl me broken I know and prostrate on the road;
Like a huge toad I saw, entire but dead,
That Time mordantly had blacked; O pressed
To the moist earth it pled for entry.
I shall be I say that stiff toad for sick with mist
And crazed I smell the odour of mortality.

And Time flames like a paraffin stove
And what it burns are the minutes I live.
At certain middays I have watched the cars
Bring me from afar their windshield suns;
What lay to my hand were blue fenders,
The suns extinguished, the drivers wearing sunglasses.
And it made me think I had touched a hearse.

So whatever else poetry is freedom. Let
Far off the impatient cadences reveal
A padding for my breathless stilts. Swivel,
O hero, in the fleshy grooves, skin and glycerine,
And sing of lust, the sun's accompanying shadow
Like a vampire's wing, the stillness in dead feet -
Your stave brings resurrection, O aggrieved king.

"O Layton, your dead feet will never be so alive now that you are one with the earth. Breathless! It is the mist and the wind, blowing the mist across my face with such aggression and jealousy that I do not fall and bow. Whatever else, Layton, your poetry is freedom, and we your subjects."

COMMENT:

Boyd said...

I remember studying Layton so long ago at Uof M. Layton was such a breath of fresh air. A sense that being Canadian was important. A sense that poetry could be life giving. This was at the time when the best (yawn) Canadian poet taught in schools was Bliss Carman and Archibald Lampman. Thru Layton [that is after I read his poems with some excitement and passion that he could talk about (sex) so openly]I read with joy and unreserved delight those others - Al Purdy, Raymond Souster, Margaret Atwood, bp nichol, Margaret Avison, Robert Kroetsch, Dorothy Livesay, Alden Nowlan, F.R.Scott, George Bowering and so many many more. It was Layton who opened my eyes to this incredible vault of writing. Irving Layton is a Canadian Hero. As significant as any giant. Even tho he has been taken away from us by Alzheimer's for so long, I weep at his passing this day.

11:46 PM EST

Sharon and Layton (and 2 Layton poems), Jan 5 06

http://whiskyprajer.blogspot.com/2006/01/irving-layton-1912-2006.html
by Whisky Prajer, Toronto, Ontario
January 5, 2006
Irving Layton, 1912-2006

Two of his poems:

Keine Lazarovitch 1870-1959

When I saw my mother's head on the cold pillow,
Her white waterfalling hair in the cheeks' hollows,
I thought, quietly circling my grief, of how
She had loved God but cursed extravagantly his creatures.

For her final mouth was not water but a curse,
A small black hole, a black rent in the universe,
Which damned the green earth, stars and trees in its stillness
And the inescapable lousiness of growing old.

And I record she was comfortless, vituperative,
Ignorant, glad, and much else besides; I believe
She endlessly praised her black eyebrows, their thick weave,
Till plagiarizing Death leaned down and took them for his mould.

And spoiled a dignity I shall not again find,
And the fury of her stubborn limited mind;
Now none will shake her amber beads and call God blind,
Or wear them upon a breast so radiantly.

O fierce she was, mean and unaccommodating;
But I think now of the toss of her gold earrings,
Their proud carnal assertion, and her youngest sings
While all the rivers of her red veins move into the sea.


And finally, that Ariel Sharon is in critical condition within 24 hours of Irving Layton's death seems to me a coincidence fraught with symobolic significance. To wit:


Israelis

It is themselves they trust and no one else;
Their fighter planes that screech across the sky,
Real, visible as the glorious sun;
Riflesmoke, gunshine, and rumble of tanks.

Man is a fanged wolf, without compassion
Or ruth: Assyrians, Medes, Greeks, Romans,
And devout pagans in Spain and Russia
--Allah's children, most merciful of all.

Where is the Almighty if murder thrives?
He's dead as mutton and they buried him
Decades ago, covered him with their own
Limp bodies in Belsen and Babi Yar.

Let the strong compose hymns and canticles,
Live with the Lord's radiance in their hard skulls
Or make known his great benevolences;
Stare at the heavens and feel glorified

Or humbled and awestruck buckle their knees:
They are done with him now and forever.
Without a whimper from him they returned,
A sign like an open hand in the sky.

The pillar of fire: Their flesh made it;
It burned briefly and died--you all know where.
Now in their own blood they temper the steel,
God being dead and their enemies not.

Irving Layton, 1912-2006

# posted by Whisky Prajer : 9:01 AM

COMMENTS:

I plead ignorance of Mr. Layton's poetry. Thanks for the intro.

"She had loved God but cursed extravagantly his creatures", Glorious how the cursing is further developed while the love is left bare of further description.

And then there's
"And the inescapable lousiness of growing old.
Gorgeous combination of inescapable and lousiness. So much for free will when you're going downhill to reside among the louses.

And, finally, there's
"And the fury of her stubborn limited mind", which brings to mind many of my squat dynamoes of aunts. All short in formal schooling but fully sold on beliefs, simple and superstitous, that have carried them through to their 80's. And it is a fury; verbal tanglings with them tended to leave you with cvrge (lumps on the head).
# posted by DarkoV : 11:22 AM
----------

DV - you probably rubbed shoulders with him at Schwatz's Deli (or elsewhere) when you did your stint in Montreal. You'd find quite a few similar treasures in his selected poetry, A Wild Peculiar Joy.
# posted by Whisky Prajer : 7:25 AM
----------

You're right about possibly rubbing shoulders with him at Schwartz's. One of the most memorable exchanges of my lifetime occurred there one late Friday evening. Mr. Richler himself, seated diagonally across from me, told me to "hurry up with that f'ing mustard beofre my smoked (meat) gets cold." I was ready to mouth off in equally elaborate guttertongue when I noticed it was Mr. St Urbain hisself. Who was I to keep the crown prince of Can-Lit from going hungry? I lightly chucked the mustard over.
# posted by DarkoV : 9:05 AM
----------

..sorry about the miserable spelling in that last comment. Ever wake up in the morning with five fingers on one hand and six on the other?
# posted by DarkoV : 9:07 AM

Well, you got me chuckling more than once apiece for both your comments. Re: Chapters - I only linked to them because they didn't charge the additional $1.99 that Amazon did ("finder's fee" I assume). I typically give Ms. Reissman and her cronies a pass on these things.

As for Richler @ Schwartz's, I'm wondering if Layton wasn't sitting across from him, seething at not being recognized and given the mustard first.
# posted by Whisky Prajer : 10:06 PM

"Against This Death", blog entry, Jan 5 06

http://yarntart.blogspot.com/
by MM, Toronto, Ontario
January 5, 2006
RIP Irving Layton

AGAINST THIS DEATH
I have seen respectable
death
served up like bread and wine
in stores and offices,
in club and hostel,

and from the streetcorner
church
that faces
two ways
I have seen death
served up
like ice.
Against this death,
slow, certain:
the body,
this burly sun,
the exhalations
of your breath,
your cheeks,
rose and lovely,
and the secret
life
of the imagination
scheming freedom
from labour
and stone
- Irving Layton

posted by mm at Thursday, January 05, 2006

For Irving, blog entry, Jan 5 06

http://wwwpearliesofwisdom.blogspot.com/
posted by torontopearl at 7:20 PM, Toronto, Ontario
January 5, 2006
Rest in Peace, "Oiving"

I found out this afternoon that Canadian poet Irving Layton passed away yesterday at the age of 93 in Montreal. For the past number of years, he was suffering from Alzheimer's and living at the Maimonides Jewish Home.

Irving was a character, if ever there was one. He made friends -- Leonard Cohen; and he made enemies. He wrote poetry about life and sexuality, love and family, Judaism and God. Anyone who hovered on the literary threshold in this country knew the name Irving Layton.

I had the privilege to meet him and talk with him several times. He was writer-in-residence at the University of Toronto when I was a student, and I had a private session in which he assessed my poetry and other writing; I went to public readings of his; I even corresponded with his last wife on a couple of occasions. He stepped into my life -- or perhaps I stepped into his -- even if briefly, and left a lasting impression on me.

I wrote a slew of Irving-inspired poems back in the early to mid 1980s, and was fortunate to have one published a few years ago in Parchment ("For Irving Layton #2"), a Canadian Jewish literary journal.

He will be missed by countless students, countless critics and countless kindred spirits.

Irving Layton, rest in peace.

For Irving Layton #1

We are graced
by
the old man’s presence.

His eyes –
they gleam
frenetically.

His brow –
it furrows
and twitches
constantly.

His hair –
white and
filigreed with
highlights of silver –
a dishevelled mass.

His voice –
clear, loud,
letting the words
string along
and flow from
his mouth
in a perpetual manner.

This man –
a shell
and a soul.
Indeed a fusion of
myth and reality.

It is to this person
that we look longingly
for a spark of
truth, knowledge and faith.
And it is he who
grants it to us –
via his words
of wisdom.

The old man –
a diviner in disguise.

For Irving Layton # 2

You speak to me of resonance
claiming that’s what my poetry lacks.
I sit there before you
and nod dumbly.

You speak to me of imagery
claiming that’s what my poetry emits.
I sit there before you
and smile weakly.

But then. . .
You speak to me of style
claiming that my poetry only manages
to denote what you consider to be
“a slice of life.”

You argue that it is not enough
to take events and throw them onto paper.
You tell me that I must blend
and shape them.
I sit there before you
and sulk quietly.

You speak to me of merit
claiming that’s what my gift
of a poem to you has.
I sit there before you
and laugh hysterically.

“What a liar!”

I get up and leave the room.

jam.canoe.ca, obituary and blog entries, Jan 4 06

http://www.obituariestoday.com/BOC/BookList.cfm?Obituary_ID=41837&section=pin

Irving Layton, Poet
March 12, 1912 - January 04, 2006

Renowned Canadian poet, Irving Layton, has died at a long-term care facility at the age of 93. He had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 1994 and had been suffering from the late stages of the disease.

Layton's poetry has been described as gritty, satiric and erotic and in over more than 50 years, he published over 40 books for poetry and prose. In 1976, Layton was named to the Order of Canada and he was also nominated twice for a Nobel Prize in literature. He has the first non-Italian to receive Italy's Petrarch Award for Poetry and he held several university posts as poet-or writer-in-residence.

Layton was born Israel Lazarovitch in Romania and was the seventh and final child of Moses, a Jewish bookkeeper, and his wife Klara. His family emigrated to Canada when he was just a year old and ended up settling in Montreal, Quebec. The neighbourhood where he grew up was a tough one, giving him material for many of his poems.

Layton taught junior high school in Montreal for many years. He made a name for himself writing for First Statement, a small Montreal-based literary magazine. But it wasn't until the publication of A Red Carpet for the Sun, which won him a Governor General's Award in 1959, that his poetry gained recongition.

Layton was married five times and had four children with his various wives.
Irving Layton, Poet

Mar 12, 1912 - Jan 04, 2006

Rich Baines
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Relationship: Student
Date Signed Jan 05, 2006
Comments: With Two Pitchforks Blazing....
----------

Peg Mccabe
WALLINGFORD, Pennsylvania, USA
Relationship: Admirer
Date Signed Jan 05, 2006
Comments: Forever in our hearts
----------

Jessica Miedema
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Relationship: Admirer
Date Signed Jan 05, 2006
Comments: We will always remember him

Satiric and Erotic, Brandon Sun, Manitoba, Jan 5 06

Thursday, January 5th, 2006
Poet Irving Layton dies in Montreal at age 93
By: Wire Services
http://www.brandonsun.com/story.php?story_id=14858

MONTREAL — 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.

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.

Link to Layton poem Rhine Boat Trip

http://barney.gonzaga.edu/~rolson3/Layton.html

Link to Layton poem, ilnarratore.com, "Against This Death"

http://www.ilnarratore.com/voices/texts/layton/againstthisdeath.PDF#search='Irving%20Layton'

News & Observer, N. Carolina, Jan 6 06

http://www.newsobserver.com/102/story/385239.html
Republished Associated Press article, Jan 5.

Link to Layton poems

http://home.interlynx.net/~gcowsill/Paparazzo/poets.htm

His Genius as a Poet (and Layton poem), blog entry, Jan 5 06

http://deweystreehouse.blogspot.com/
posted by Mama Squirrel @ 8:08 AM
January 5, 2006

Irving Layton dies

And that's the irony of posting this...that the majority of people won't know that Irving Layton was one of Canada's greatest poets. And I'm talking about the Canadians, who should know. If Layton had been eighteen years old, made one hip-hop CD or played one game of pro hockey, it would have been all over the news; but he was 93 years old and he was a poet. So his passing doesn't get much coverage on talk radio. (Click on the title for the CTV article.)

Or maybe I'm wrong, maybe it's just too early.

From "The Swimmer"

The afternoon foreclosing, see
The swimmer plungest from his raft,
Opening the spray corollas by his act of war --
The snake heads strike
Quickly and are silent.

Emerging see how for a moment
A brown weed with marvellous bulbs,
He lies imminent upon the water
While light and sound come with a sharp passion
From the gonad sea around the Poles
And break in bright cockle-shells about his ear....

[Additional comment for my homeschooling-parent friends: Just because I don't agree with Layton's lifestyle or enjoy some of his metaphors doesn't mean that I can't appreciate his genius as a poet. I was introduced to The Swimmer and The Cold Green Element years ago in a poetry class, and they still surprise me. That said, Layton isn't always a poet you want to turn students loose on without previewing.]

The Sparks Fly, Star Phoenix, Saskatoon, Jan 6 06

Poet Layton dead at 93
Prolific author had abrasive ego
Alan Hustak, CanWest News Service
Published: Thursday, January 05, 2006

Everything except writing poems and making love ends up by finally boring me.

-- Irving Layton

MONTREAL -- Irving Layton, the flamboyant poet who died Wednesday in Montreal at 93, once described himself as "a quiet madman, never far from tears" who wrote poems to cause trouble.

As he put it: "The sparks fly/I gather each one/ and start a poem."

The author of more than 50 books of poetry, Layton died at a geriatric centre in suburban Cote St. Luc, where he had been a patient with Alzheimer's disease for the past five years.

Arrangements have not been completed, but the funeral is planned for Sunday.

Once described as being both "the Picasso and the Mae West of poetry," Layton will be remembered not only for his often-erotic verse, but for his abrasive ego, outrageous opinions, entertaining love life and bitter feuds, as well as for being a provocative, stimulating teacher.

Layton was born in Tirgu Neamt, Romania, on March 12, 1912. The family immigrated to Montreal in 1913.

Young Irving was raised in the Plateau Mont Royal district. In 1936, when he was 23, he married Montrealer Faye Lynch and they moved to Halifax, where Layton became a Fuller Brush salesman. Before long, though, he walked away from both.

He enlisted in the Canadian army in 1942 but was not sent overseas. He was discharged with the rank of lieutenant.

When the war was over, Layton went back to university and in 1946 gained an MA from McGill in economics and political science. He also became a card-carrying socialist.

Layton didn't start to write poetry until he was in his 30s. His first collection of poetry, Here and Now, was published by First Statement Press in 1945.

For the next couple of decades, he taught English in Montreal, at the high-school level and at Sir George Williams College, now Concordia University.

In 1946 Layton married Betty Sutherland, sister of actor Donald Sutherland. The couple had a son, Max, and a daughter, Naomi.

He and Sutherland parted several years later when Layton became involved with an Australian expatriate, Aviva Cantor, who became his soulmate for the next 25 years. He and Cantor had a son, David.

In the '50s, Irving Layton became one of Leonard Cohen's mentors, and the two remained close after Cohen became internationally famous.

Layton's reputation as a poet became firmly established with his 1951 collection The Black Huntsmen. Once he hit full stride he became amazingly prolific, producing almost a book a year between 1951 and 1991.

In 1959 Layton won the Governor-General's Award for his collection A Red Carpet for the Sun. Some of his other notable volumes are Love the Conqueror Worm, Balls for a One-Armed Juggler and The Shattered Plinths.

In 1969 Layton left Montreal in a blaze of invective, "squeezed out by French-Canadian nationalism," and went to teach English at York University in Toronto.

His relationship with Cantor ended and he married one of his former students, Harriet Bernstein, a rich Toronto movie publicist. They had a daughter, Samantha. The marriage had a nasty ending, which he chonicled in his book, The Gucci Bag.

Layton is survived by his two sons and his two daughters.

(MONTREAL GAZETTE)
© The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon) 2006

The Ottawa Citizen article, Jan 6 06

Republished the Montreal Gazette article.

Nobel Prize Nominated Poet, CKWS Kingston, Jan 5 06

Nobel Prize nominated poet Irving Layton dies in Montreal at 93
at 1:58 on January 5, 2006, EST.
http://www.ckwstv.com/news/news.cfm?dir=entertainment&file=e010502A&n=1
JONATHAN MONTPETIT

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. Reaction to the controversial poet's death began almost immediately. Justice Minister Irwin Cotler referred to Layton as "the man who taught me how to think."

Layton taught junior high school in Montreal for many years, and counted Cotler among his students. However, Layton's teaching duties weren't relegated to literature.

"He also taught physics, chemistry and math, so to this day I know nothing about physics, chemistry and math," Cotler quipped in an interview.

"He was not just a teacher of mine. He was mentor, an inspiration, and later a colleague and friend. We were very, very close."

Cotler added: "I can still hear the resonance of his voice, the aesthetics of his lyrics, and the railing against injustice. It was an intensity he maintained right to 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.

"The poetry was the man, the man was the poetry," said McGill University English professor Brian Trehearne.

Trehearne wrote the introduction to Fornalutx, a collection of lesser-known poems by Layton.

"You always got the sense that Irving was performing himself," Trehearne said in an interview Wednesday night. "He had a very strong sense of himself and how he wanted to appear and what he wanted to show people."

Despite being nominated twice for the Nobel Prize, by the end of his life Layton had disappeared from university reading lists and bookstore shelves, a situation Trehearne calls "scandalous."

"He is badly neglected," said Trehearne, pointing out that until last year Layton had been out of print. "How could we let this happen."

Trehearne recalled a visit the poet made to his classroom in the early '90s, with students versed in feminist theory ready to give Layton - a self-confessed worshipper of women - a grilling.

But after reading a poem about his mother, "he had them eating out of his hand."

Magdalene Redekop, who teaches Canadian poetry at the University of Toronto, saluted Layton despite her beliefs.

"He was an extremely uneven poet, but at his best he was fabulous and would rank among the top poets in the world. . . . But he wrote some really lousy poems."

Among her favourite poems by Layton are A Tall Man Executes a Jig; A Cold Green Element; and Whatever Else, Poetry Is Freedom.

"Those are poems that even when I think about them now I get goosebumps. Those three are the kinds of poems that make your hair stand on end."

Redekop, who's now teaching a class on Canadian love poetry, says she had assigned one of Layton's poems to her students and then had a change of heart.

"I decided that I simply couldn't tolerate teaching it, that it made my stomach turn, it was so sexist. He was a profoundly sexist man, and relentlessly so. But for me as a feminist ... to concede the poems of his that are fantastic is something."

Layton 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.

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.

Layton first made a name for himself writing for First Statement, a small Montreal-based literary magazine. But it wasn't until the publication of A Red Carpet for the Sun, which won a Governor General's Award in 1959, that his poetry gained widespread notoriety.

"He was as famous as a Canadian writer could get at the time," Trehearne said.

Dispensing with what he called Canada's "puritanical" notion of verse, Layton's poetry often dealt with the violence embedded in everyday life and the implications of human freedom.

"He tell us we are free and he shows us what that means," said Trehearne. "And it means some very freighting things, because when human beings are free they can do some horrendous things to each other."

Layton was married five times, most recently to Anna Pottier. In 1995, the couple separated after Layton was diagnosed with Alzheimer's.

He had four children with his various wives. David, his son from his third marriage, went on to write 1999's Motion Sickness, a memoir of growing up with his volatile father.

Layton explained in a magazine profile that he thrived on emotional extremes and that gave rise to his art:

"I guess I have the fatality that makes me seek out trouble. Because it's the kind of trouble that leads to a poem. It's creative chaos. No one writes a poem unless he wants to get out of hell, but do you get into hell in order to write the poem or do you live the life that makes the poetry that gets you into hell?"

Acclaimed Poet, CBC News, Jan 5 06

Acclaimed poet Irving Layton dies at 93
Last Updated Thu, 05 Jan 2006 11:07:22 EST
CBC News

Canada's enfant terrible of poetry, Irving Layton, died Wednesday in a Montreal care facility where he had been living since 2000.

The 93-year-old poet was suffering from Alzheimer's disease.

"[His] poems are astonishing," McGill University Prof. Brian Trehearne once told CBC News in an interview.

"These are poems that rival anything anyone in the world has ever written."

Fell in love with poetry

Layton said he first fell in love with poetry in Grade 10 while hearing his English teacher, Mr. Saunders, read Alfred Tennyson's The Revenge.

"I'd never heard the English language so beautifully read, so powerfully rendered, and I remember sitting quietly in my seat listening enraptured as the sounds filled the room."

* FEATURE: Irving Layton

Born in the small Romanian town of Tirgul Neamt in 1912 to Jewish parents, Layton emigrated with his family to Canada in 1913, settling in Montreal, where he grew up in a poor neighbourhood near St. Urbain Street, the same stomping grounds of novelist Mordecai Richler.

Layton spent much of his career as a teacher, first at a parochial high school, later at Sir George Williams University and York University where he taught English.

He was also poet-in-residence at the University of Toronto, and it was from his poetic pursuits that his fame arose. He published more than 40 books of poetry and prose in a career that spanned more than five decades.

Taught Leonard Cohen

Poet and singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen and TV magnate Moses Znaimer were some of his famous students.

"I taught him how to dress, he taught me how to live forever," Cohen once said.

Irving counted poets Tennyson, Byron, Wordsworth and Walter Scott as influences, as well as D.H. Lawrence, Jonathan Swift and William Shakespeare.

His early poetry focused on sex and love, often written in frank language and shocking some critics.

"Sex was not talked about in polite company," said Anna Porter of Key Porter Books.

"People didn't like the idea of it being in books."

Fought for a Canadian voice

He joined the Young People's Socialist League for a short time during his 20s and held ardent debates with burgeoning politicians such as David Lewis, father of Stephen Lewis.

He eventually enrolled in Macdonald College in 1934, graduating with a bachelor of science.

It was at the college that Layton's left-wing radicalism blossomed on the page, as he wrote a column for the student newspaper. Always ready for a rumble, Layton spent much time debating at the clubs and cafes of Montreal, taking on the formidable Oxford-Cambridge debating team with a schoolmate and winning.

He enlisted in the Canadian army in 1942 and was given an honourable discharge a year later.

Layton then became an editor of First Statement Press along with friends John Sutherland and Louis Dudek. The first book published by the press was Layton's Here and Now in 1945.

At the same time, the poet spearheaded a group of younger compatriots, along with his two friends, that fought for a Canadian voice in poetry, railing against the old British order.

Won acclaim

He won acclaim for his first major poem, The Swimmer, in 1944. Two years later, he received his master of arts.

Layton's star rose rapidly in the 1950s and '60s, particularly after the publication of 1959's A Red Carpet for the Sun.

Layton soon became a regular on the CBC-TV debating program Fighting Words , where he earned a reputation as a fierce debater. He was named to the Order of Canada in 1976.

Layton is known for his rapier wit and ongoing battle against uniformity and Puritanism. The force of his personality was irresistible, helping him woo five wives but leaving a trail of five divorces.

"He loved the relationship with women. He loved the emotional frisson and the energy that gave him to write his poetry," Brian Mansbridge, his biographer, told CBC Television.

Layton is survived by his four children.

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi, blog entry, Jan 5 06

http://peterwestpublicrelations.blogspot.com/2006/01/sic-transit-gloria-mundi.html
posted by Peter West at 8:32 AM, Oakville, Ontario
January 5, 2006
Sic transit gloria mundi

There are moments that make me more humble than others.

I had one of those moments this morning as I read Lynn Crosbie's comments in today's Globe and Mail about the work of Irving Layton.

Layton, who many consider Canada's best poet, died after a life time of reminding us what it was like to be young and Canadian.

His great friend Leonard Cohen is quoted in the same article as saying: "If you are wondering what happened to us all, you might consult the poems of Irving Layton."

And here comes the kicker: Crosbie ends her paragraph with the Latin phrase sic transit gloria mundi - and it translates to "Thus passes the glory of the world."

Would that angels whisper that phrase on the day of your passing. For me, I will settle for being mentioned in dispatches.

Lyrics of Love (and Layton and Cohen poems), blog entry. Jan 5 06

http://magnificentoctopus.blogspot.com/2006/01/irving-layton.html
posted by Isabella Kratynski at 9:42 AM, Montreal, Quebec
January 5, 2006
Irving Layton

On Being Bitten by a Dog

A doctor for mere lucre
performed an unnecessary operation
making my nose nearly
as crooked as himself

Another for a similar reason
almost blinded me

A poet famous
for his lyrics of love
and renunciation
toils at the seduction of my wife

And the humans who would like to kill me
are legion

Only once have I been bitten by a dog

— Irving Layton, 1912—2006

The Montreal Gazette:
Literary community remembers.

CBC:
"I taught him how to dress, he taught me how to live forever," [Leonard] Cohen once said.

The Globe and Mail:

Irving and Me At the Hospital

He stood up for Nietzsche
I stood up for Christ
He stood up for victory
I stood up for less
I loved to read his verses
He loved to hear my song
We never had much interest
In who was right or wrong
His boxer's hands were shaking
He struggled with his pipe
Imperial tobacco
Which I helped him light

— Leonard Cohen

In an Elevator Surrounded by Women, sarahweinman.com, Jan 5 06

http://www.sarahweinman.com/confessions/2006/01/irving_layton_p.html
By Sarah Weinman, Baltimore, Maryland
January 05, 2006 at 09:30 AM
Irving Layton passes on

I suppose the death of Canadian poet Irving Layton probably won't have the impact now that it might have, say, twenty years ago. But nevertheless, this guy was Canadian poetry, and without him, there would have been no Leonard Cohen and probably many others who would end up giving literature their best shot.

But that said, the most telling part of this particular obit might be this:

[Brian] Trehearne [of McGill University] recalled a visit the poet made to his classroom in the early '90s, with students versed in feminist theory ready to give Layton -- a self-confessed worshipper of women -- a grilling.

But after reading a poem about his mother, "he had them eating out of his hand.''

Magdalene Redekop, who teaches Canadian poetry at the University of Toronto, saluted Layton despite her beliefs.

I met Layton very briefly about three years ago during a visit to my now-late grandmother, who also spent her remaining days at Maimonides. My mom, my grandmother and I were taking the elevator down to the first floor and a portly man with the wildest mane of white hair I'd probably ever seen was helped into the elevator by a nurse. I didn't really recognize him until after we'd all exited, but I never forgot Layton's expression -- a cross between a smirk and appreciation, like how he could be on an elevator surrounded by women.

Evidently his mind was pretty well gone, and that's why he had to go live out the last years of his life along with the other Alzheimer patients on the 4th floor (my grandmother was the only lucid person on the floor) but some things never changed.

A Kid from St. Urbain Street, blog entry, Jan 05 06

http://blogcritics.org/archives/2006/01/05/104615.php
by gypsyman, Kingston, Ontario
January 05, 2006
Irving Layton: Dead At Ninety-Three

A number of years ago a friend of mine who was attending McGill University in Montreal, Canada, was describing an encounter she had had with Irving Layton. He was currently serving as writer-in-residence, and as she was a poet, she had arranged to meet with him to discuss her work.

As befits his rather philandering reputation, the only thing I can remember from our conversation was that she made sure to keep a desk between them at all times. We both laughed at that, but I'm also certain that she was also only partially joking. Mr. Layton's reputation as a ladies man had always been well deserved.

Irving Layton died yesterday at the age of 93. Since 1994 the ravages of Alzheimer's disease had decimated the brilliant mind of one of Canada's first international literary stars. His nomination for the Nobel Prize in literature in 1981 bore out the significance of his contributions both at home and abroad as a poet.
layton
But for a lot of people it will be his larger than life persona that they will remember. Even his most famous student, Leonard Cohen, is quoted in The Globe And Mail's obituary as saying: "I taught him how to dress, he taught me how to live forever."

Like a lot of Montreal's Jewish community of his generation, he was raised on the now infamous St. Urbain Street. Born Israel Lazarovitch in 1912, his family emigrated from Romania when he was one year old. As a French-speaking city, Montreal was attractive to Romanian Jews because of that language's similarity to Romanian. (That was the primary reason my Mother's family settled there when they came to Canada in the late 1800s.)

Mr. Layton started to gain notoriety when he was in University in the 1930s for his socialist politics and writings, both of which would see him blacklisted from entering the United States for nearly fifteen years. It was in the 1940s that he first started to make his presence felt on the Canadian literary scene.

Along with a few other poets he pushed for a style of poetry that was independent of the prevailing Victorian style favoured by poets of previous eras. They argued that poetry should be allowed to develop its own style reflective of the day's social realities. This helped to set the stage for poets like Leonard Cohen who would begin writing in the late fifties and early sixties.

He revelled in his role as the rebel and the iconoclast. The more people would react to his antics, the more he would say things guaranteed to feed their ire. In 1972 he was quoted as saying: "I am a genius who has written poems that will survive with the best of Shakespeare, Wordsworth and Keats."

While I'm sure that Mr. Layton's attitudes and behaviour must have appeared bombastic and egotistic to the establishment of his time, and perhaps ridiculous to people of our generation, he wouldn't have gotten very far without it. In the worlds of academia and literature of the 1930s and 40s he was the quintessential outsider.

In Montreal, and indeed Eastern Canada, those worlds were the preserve of the Anglo-Saxon elite. The majority would have come from moneyed backgrounds and from within a close knit circle of patrician families. For a product of the rough and tumble world of the mean streets of Montreal's Jewish ghetto it would have been extremely difficult to be accepted as an equal in that society.

In order to succeed Mr. Layton would have had to develop the skin and the temperament of a rhinoceros. The embracing of the role of iconoclast and egotist would have been his only recourse at the time. It was also essential to the development of Canadian literature.

No one but an outsider would have dared challenge the status quo in the manner that Mr. Layton did: they would have had too much to lose. He was already on the outside looking in so what did he care if they continued to shun him. But such was the power of his voice his work could not be ignored, either by publishers or the establishment.

For those of us who only knew of him in the modern era, we only saw the bombast and the womanizing. His position, which we could take for granted as being won on merit, to him might have still appeared tenuous and in need of defending. Sometimes the hardest part of fighting the types of battles he fought is accepting that you've won. You are continually waiting for, and guarding against, attempts at counter-attack.

As a Jew of his generation and background, it would have been an especially difficult feeling to overcome. His parents would have carried memories of the wandering Jews of Europe, forced to move from country to country as laws changed. He grew up in Montreal, where on one hand were the Anglo-Saxon elite and on the other, the Roman Catholic majority: neither of whom could be said to be overly fond of Jews at the time.

When his childhood and early manhood of living in those conditions was followed by the horrors of the Holocaust his continuing to play the role of the outsider long after it was necessary becomes understandable. At the same time one must take into consideration how far into his cheek his tongue may have been lodged when he was issuing quotes to the media.

I'm sure he got a great deal of pleasure out of playing the rapscallion for the stolid Canadian Press of the sixties and seventies. It allowed him the freedom to say things like: "In Pierre Trudeau Canada finally has a leader who is worthy of assassination..." and not be interned by the police.

What's truly most important to remember about Mr. Layton is that first and foremost he was a poet of the highest quality. In trying to offer an explanation for his character, it is my hope to turn your focus to his work where it belongs. He published more than forty books of poetry and prose during his lifetime, radically changed the face of Canadian poetry, and carved out an international reputation.

Aside from his previously-mentioned nomination for the Nobel Prize for literature, he was also awarded the Governor General's award for poetry in 1959, and called to the Order of Canada in the early seventies.

The Governor General's award was the first sign that his work was gaining acceptance by the Canadian literary establishment; or a sign of how much the times had changed since he had begun writing. Whatever the reason, it was still a huge accomplishment for a kid from St. Urbain Street.

Unlike some of his more bloodless contemporaries, Layton's poetry was filled with the passion and fire that marked his life. For those who had tired of the cool precession that had marked the Victorian school of poetry previously practised in Canada, his provocative and emotional offerings must have seemed like a breath of fresh air.

Recently Mr. Layton's work has come under fire for his purported misogynist attitudes. He was never successful in marriage, and wrote freely and emotionally about all his relationships. His sensibilities towards women are not that of a North American man; he is open and frank in his admiration and quick in condemnation.

Taken in isolation from the rest of his character, a case can be made that he disliked women, but put the poems into the context of the man. He treated all subject matter in the same manner. Whether he was talking about a woman or a street corner he would speak from his heart without editing. They can be mean, they can be ugly, but his poems were always the truth of that moment he was trying to express.

Unfortunately trying to find links to any of Layton's work published on the web has proved to be impossible, so you will have to settle for either purchasing one of his books or going to your local library and checking one out in order to sample his wares. I would encourage you to do just that before reading any further analysis of his work.

Read him and appreciate, or hate, as your feelings dictate. Don't let the hoopla surrounding his character and his infamy be what he is remembered for. He was a poet who was not afraid to split his ribs to show us his beating heart: that deserves to be honoured.

COMMENTS:

#1
chancelucky
URL
January 5, 2006
12:55 PM
Thanks for the fine Layton obituary. I'll have to check out his poetry.
----------
#2
Steve Clackson
URL
January 5, 2006
02:00 PM
I was trying to come up with something when I read your post. You have said it better than I ever could. I've linked it. Steve
----------
#3
Arethusa
URL
January 5, 2006
10:53 PM
This was so much better than the obit in The G&B which seemed more concerned in trotting out his personal life than his works. Thanks.

WBZ News Radio, Boston, article Jan 5 06

http://www.wbz1030.com/apworld/Obit-Layton-ai/resources_news_html
Republished Associated Press article, Jan 5.

The Morning Call, Allentown, Pennsylvania, Jan 5 06

http://www.mcall.com
Republished Associated Press article, Jan 5.

Edmonton Journal article, Jan 5 06

republished the Montreal Gazette article.

Prolific Writer, Guardian Unlimited, UK, Jan 6 06

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uslatest/story/0,1282,-5526764,00.html

Irving Layton

MONTREAL (AP) - Irving Layton, a prolific writer and one of Canada's top poets, died. He was 93.

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

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

Canadian Justice Minister Irwin Cotter said Layton ``taught me how to think.'' Layton taught for many years. He held university posts as poet-or writer-in-residence and was nominated for a Nobel Prize in literature in 1982. Layton was named to the Order of Canada in 1976 - Canada's highest honor.

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

WTOP, Washington, Jan 5 06

http://www.wtopnews.com/?nid=105&sid=665971
Republished Associated Press article, Jan 5.
WTOP, Washington.

Poet controversat, Romanian National News Agency, Jan 6 06

Romanian National News Agency (Rompress)http://www.rompres.ro

Montreal, 5 ian /Rompres/ - Poetul canadian de origine română Irving Layton, ale cărui poeme curajoase, fie satirice, fie erotice, au modelat într-un stil inconfundabil peisajul literaturii canadiene, a încetat din viaţă miercuri, la vârsta de 93 de ani, informează Canadian Press consultată de Rompres.

Diagnosticat încă din 1994 cu necruţătoarea maladie Alzheimer, Layton a încetat din viaţă la Maimonides Geriatric Centre.

Layton s-a născut la Târgu Neamţ la data de 12 martie 1912 şi a purtat pentru un an numele de Israel Pincu Lazarovitch. Părinţii săi i-au schimbat numele după ce au emigrat la Montreal în 1913.

Poet controversat, Layton s-a descris la un moment dat drept "un nebun tăcut, niciodată străin de lacrimi", care scrie poezii pentru a intra în bucluc."Mai întâi a fost Irving Layton şi apoi am venit şi noi ceilalţi", a precizat în amintirea celui dispărut scriitorul şi cantautorul Leonard Cohen, într-un e-mail transmis din Los Angeles publicaţiei Montreal Gazette, după aflarea veştii nefericite. "El este cel mai mare poet al nostru, campionul neîntrecut al liricii noastre. (Maladia) Alzheimer nu a putut să-i oprească spiriul viu şi la fel nu va putea nici moartea", a mai adăugat Cohen.

Autor a peste 50 de volume de poezie, Layton a încetat din viaţă la centrul geriatric din Cote St. Luc, locul unde a fost internat în ultimii cinci ani din viaţă din cauza maladiei Alzheimer.

Ceremonia funerară va fi organizată duminică.Odată descris drept "un Picasso şi o Mae West a poeziei", Layton va rămâne viu prin viaţa poeziilor sale dar şi prin personalitatea sa molipsitoare, prin opiniile sale care dădeau naştere mereu la controverse, prin felul său de a iubi viaţa, prin provocările pe care le lansa mereu şi prin calităţile sale de dascăl.

Layton a început să scrie poezie abia după vârsta de 30 de ani. La un moment dat, rugat să explice de ce i-a trebuit atât de mult timp pentru a se exprima în versuri, poetul a povestit că la vârsta liceului îi plăcea să citească clasici precum Wordsworth şi Byron şi "în mod firesc ajunsesem să cred că pentru a fi poet, trebuie să fi fie englez, fie mort, însă de preferat să fi amândouă".

Prima sa colecţie de poezii, "Here and Now" (Aici şi Acum), a văzut lumina tiparului în 1945.

Profesor de engleză la nivel de liceu şi universitate, spiritul critic şi contestatar al lui Irving Layton şi-a pus amprenta asupra a generaţii de elevi. Unul dintre aceşti elevi a fost Irwin Cotler, în prezent ministrul canadian al justiţiei.La aflarea veştii despre moartea artistului, ministrul canadian al justiţiei s-a referit la Irving Layton numindu-l "omul care m-a învăţat cum să gândesc". "Aşa cum îmi amintesc, am învăţat foarte puţină fizică, matematică sau chimie în şcoală. În schimb îmi plăcea la nebunie literatura şi filosofia. A fost o inspiraţie pentru mine şi în acele zile şi aşa a rămas şi în prezent. A fost un mentor, un coleg şi un prieten", a susţinut oficialul canadian.

În anii '50, Layton a devenit unul dintre mentorii tânărului Leonard Cohen, cei doi păstrând o relaţie apropiată de prietenie şi după ce Cohen a dobândit recunoaţşterea internaţională pentru muzica sa.

"L-am învăţat cum să se îmbrace iar el m-a învăţat cum să trăiesc veşnic", a declarat Leonard Cohen despre relaţia sa cu Irving Layton. Recunoaşterea calităţilor lirice ale lui Layton a venit în 1951, odată cu publicarea colecţiei de poeme "The Black Huntsmen". După aceasta, activitatea sa artistică a devenit extraordinar de prolifică, poetul publicând câte un volum pe an din 1951 până în 1991.

Deşi poezia reprezinte fără îndoială domeniul său de excelenţă, Irving Layton a mai publicat şi două cărţi de eseuri şi a editat şi o antologie canadiană de poezie de dragoste.

Pe măsură ce a înaintat în vârstă, opinia sa despre natura umană a devenit din ce în ce mai sumbră. "Holocaustul este simbolul meu. Dacă citeşti poeţii contemporani nu ai să ştii nicioadtă în ce lume barbară te afli. Omul uită foarte uşor ce bestie înfricoşătoare poate să fie. Vreau să le reamintesc mereu oamenilor cât de aproape sunt de dezastru", susţinea el.

În 1976 poetul a primit titlul de Ofiţer al Ordinului de Canada. Comitetul italian pentru Premiul Nobel l-a nominalizat de două ori pe Layton pentru Premiul Nobel pentru Literatură, iar în 1993, poetul canadian de origine română a devenit primul maestru al liricii din afara Italiei distins cu Premiul Petrarca pentru Poezie.

ROMPRES

Influential, Hindustan Times, Jan 6 06

http://www.hindustantimes.com/news/181_1591644,00110004.htm

Influential Canadian poet Irving Layton dies at 93

Reuters

Toronto, January 6, 2006

Irving Layton, one of Canada's most influential writers, whose powerful, sexually-charged poetry often shocked critics in the 1940s and '50s, died on Wednesday at age 93.

The professor, writer and poet had suffered from Alzheimer's disease since 1994, and died in a long-term care facility in his home town of Montreal.

Known as one of the most published writers in North America, his early poetry focused on love and sex, making staid Canadians blush at his sometimes bawdy subject matter, and prompting critics to attack him for his radicalism.

As a result, the larger-than-life Layton had as many enemies as friends, and was considered a fierce debater as well as an outspoken social and political critic.

With a reputation a a hell-raiser, he would often engage in public arguments with politicians, writers and friends in his crusade against Puritanism and uniformity, and became a regular on the CBC Television debate program Fighting Words.

Layton was named to the Order of Canada in 1976 and nominated for the Nobel Prize in literature in 1982. He published more than 40 books in his lifetime.

In the foreword to A Red Carpet for the Sun, which won Canada's Governor General's Award for literature in 1959, Layton offered insight into his view of the world when he wrote that "poetry, by giving dignity and utterance to our distress, enables us to hope, makes compassion reasonable."

Fellow Montrealer and poet, Leonard Cohen, a former student and protege of Layton's, once said: "I taught him how to dress, he taught me how to live forever."

Layton was born Israel Lazarovitch in the small town of Tirgul Neamt, Romania, in 1912. His family immigrated to Canada in 1913 and he grew up near St. Urbain Street in Montreal, the same Jewish neighborhood that novelist Mordecai Richler made famous in many of his works.

After a stint in the Canadian Army during World War Two, Layton completed his graduate work at Montreal's McGill University in 1946, and went on to teach for many years.

He was at his most prolific in the 1970s and 80s, publishing a book almost every year.

"Recipe for a Long and Healthy Life", Western Standard, blog entry, Jan 4 06

Irving Layton, R. I. P.

Irving Layton died today, at 93. I have to say, I think most current (and previous) Canlit sucks, though Mordecai Richler could sometimes be great. The two Margarets -- Atwood and Laurence -- are both too smug to be readable. Reading The Stone Angel is actually a stomach-churning experience. Atwood wrote one good book, The Edible Woman, over thirty years ago, but I guess then decided she was an important feminist and Canadian nationalist with an important message for all of us to hear. Alice Munro is grossly overrated -- though I enjoyed that How I Met My Husband story.

But I love much of Layton's poetry. Some of his poems are vulgar, puerile, to be sure. (And yes, I know his politics were sophomoric, but he was a poet.) But so many of his poems are glorious. I think he wrote best about love, about frailty and about being Jewish. One also has to admire a man who irritated feminists so much (sort of the Serge Gainsbourg/Norman Mailer Syndrome). I think it's rather a scandal that his poems have disappeared pretty much from high school and university English lists, but this is no doubt due to political correctness. What a shame. His Eternal Recurrence is one of the best poems I know about heartache.

A few years ago, I was working with an elderly lady on her autobiography. She had had a five-decade journalism career, during the course of which she met many "lights" of Canlit. When she passed away (her autobiography unfinished) her family gave me a number of her autographed books. One was by Layton. For the life of me I can't make out most of the inscription. His handwriting was all over the map. There is some reference to the (1972?) election, and I can make out the "Much Love, Irving Layton."

In his memory, his Recipe for a Long and Happy Life:

Give all your nights
to the study of the Talmud
By day practice
shooting from the hip

Posted by wonkitties http://wonkitties.blogspot.com/
on January 4, 2006 | Permalink
Western Standard, Calgary

"Against This Death", Thetyee.ca, Jan 5 06

On Dying, by Irving Layton

Layton, photographed by Dominika Dittwald
The poet was no friend of 'respectable death'.

Published: January 5, 2006
TheTyee.ca

The great Canadian poet Irving Layton died yesterday at the age of 93 in Montreal. This is one of his poems.

AGAINST THIS DEATH

I have seen respectable

death

served up like bread and wine

in stores and offices,

in club and hostel,

and from the streetcorner

church

that faces

two ways

I have seen death

served up

like ice.

Against this death,

slow, certain:

the body,

this burly sun,

the exhalations

of your breath,

your cheeks,

rose and lovely,

and the secret

life

of the imagination

scheming freedom

from labour

and stone.

WCBS 800, Jan 5 06

http://wcbs880.com/international/Obit-Layton-ai/resources_news_html
Republished Associated Press article, Jan 5.

Yahoo! Entretenimiento Jan 5 06

http://espanol.entertainment.yahoo.com/060105/52/166l6.html

5 de enero de 2006, 12:42 PM

Falleció el poeta canadiense Irving Layton


MONTREAL, Canadá (AFP) - El poeta canadiense Irving Layton falleció el miércoles a la edad de 93 años en un hospital de Montreal, después de vivir durante varios años con el mal de Alzheimer, anunció este jueves la prensa.

Israël Lazarovitch, su verdadero nombre, nació en 1912 en Rumania. Cuando tenía un año, su familia se mudó a Montreal.

Después de su primera publicación, 'Here and Now' (1945), se convirtió en uno de los poetas más destacados de los años 1950 y 1960.

Con unas cuarenta obras en su haber, Layton obtuvo en 1958 el premio Gobernador General de Canadá por su recopilación 'A Red Carpet for the Sun'. También fue dos veces considerado para el premio Nobel de literatura.

Famous Poet, Ely Times & County, Jan 5 06

Top Canadian Poet Irving Layton Dies at 93
Staff and agencies
05 January, 2006

MONTREAL - Irving Layton, a prolific writer and one of Canada‘s top poets, has died. He was 93.

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

Canadian Justice Minister Irwin Cotter said Layton "taught me how to think." Layton taught for many years. He held university posts as poet-or writer-in-residence and was nominated for a Nobel Prize in literature in 1982. Layton was named to the Order of Canada in 1976 — Canada‘s highest honor.

Born Israel Lazarovitch in Romania on March 12, 1912. His family migrated to Canada a year later, settling in a tough, multiethnic neighborhood in Montreal. Its mean streets later became the backdrop for many of his graphic, often bawdy poems.

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

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

"There Were No Signs", THIS magazine blog entry, Jan 4 06

http://blog.thismagazine.ca/archives/2006/01/irving_layton_r.html

Irving Layton RIP

Posted by john_d at January 4, 2006 05:35 PM

Israel Pincu Lazarovitch a.k.a. Irving Layton died today after a very long illness. Born in Romania, Layton was one of Canada’s most successful poets. He was 93 years old. I have transcribed the following poem from A Wild Peculiar Joy (McClelland & Stewart. Copyright 2004 by Irving Layton). Go and buy the book, why don’t you:

There Were No Signs

By walking I found out
Where I was going.

By intensely hating, how to love.
By loving, whom and what to love.

By grieving, how to laugh from the belly.

Out of infirmity, I have built strength.
Out of untruth, truth.

From hypocrisy, I wove directness.

Almost now I know who I am.
Almost I have the boldness to be that man.

Another step
And I shall be where I started from.


READER COMMENTS:

I feel David Layton's book about his father is elegy to him . (I don't know if his father had spoke of it)

Posted by: grant at January 5, 2006 03:53 PM
----------

His father thought the writing was "fine," according to a piece about it in Quill & Quire. He was a complicated man, and some might accurately describe him as a bastard. I only knew the poetry, which was alternately "fine" and crazy self-indulgent. Mostly fine.

Posted by: john_d at January 5, 2006 04:03 PM
----------

David Layton's book Motion Sickness is NOT, and should never be thought of as an elegy to his father. It is closer to a monument to the Oedipus Complex. It is also perhaps an alarmingly triste try at getting a whole lotta brownie points from Ma, as in 'Look Ma, see how I can kick Irv in the pants and mock him, knowing that he can not retaliate or respond' Don't get me started. When the Saturday Night article (from which the book evolved)came out, Irving was so hurt by this vulgar betrayal that he lost his hearing for an entire week. I mean stone deaf. I had to write notes to communicate. He said that if it were anybody else writing this, he'd have retaliated -- but when it's your own flesh and blood...you can't fight back - he was too large a man for that. And this incident saddened him no end. In fact, I recall taking him to the clinic for his check-up, and strangers came up and offered their condolences for having such a son. When the mamzer came to Montreal, I wanted to rent all the horsewhips from all the caleche drivers in Montreal and flay the mamzer till he saw the perfidy, the ignobility of his cowardly, pathetic oeuvre. May I add that Irving NEVER had any problem with opposition or criticism - but he was repulsed by things like lies, dirty play, dishonesty.
So now I hear the boy has written a semi-autobiographical novel about (his) lazy sperm. Well, I wish him well with that, and most of all I hope he does manage to conceive, and I fervently hope it is a son -- that will be the SPITTING image of David's dear self. As to why did it got out that Irving thought Motion Sickness was 'fine' - like any father, he was proud to see his son publish a novel, and the writing is very entertaining in parts, but Irving was not exactly thrilled at having the frailties that come with age, and other cheap mockeries so wantonly trotted out. In any case, a poet is rarely, if ever surprised at such things.

Regards,
Anna Pottier

Posted by: Anna Pottier at January 6, 2006 10:03 PM
----------

Yup. Like I said, Irving thought the "writing" was fine.

I remember the back and forth over the book, and I confess to coming down on the side of "If you have Dad issues, take them up on the couch, not in Saturday Night." Just a personal opinion.

Canada does love its 'disturbing childhood' stories. Would the CBC exist without them?

Posted by: john_d at January 7, 2006 12:58 PM

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Double yup. Re: CBC: well, there's always the land and sea, plus Last Spike docs, and Dr. David Suzuki on top of 'disturbing childhood' stories. Bring back Codco and Don Messer, I say.

Posted by: Anna Pottier at January 7, 2006 01:18 PM

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re: http://www.cbc.ca/arts/books/layton.html

Anyone who can write such an uninformed narrow literary obit on Irving Layton is a frightful liability to Canadian literature. As an example, nowhere is it written that Layton was twice nominated for the Nobel Prize for literature by Italian nominators.

As usual the CBC has a way of cutting its own throat, and, by proxy, that of Canada's and that of Canadians. In my opinion, this review only contributes to an image of the CBC as growingly deficient, with a hope that it again and soon becomes a vibrant broadcaster of the people and for the people.

The CBC ought to hang its head in shame
for web publishing at the first announcement of Layton's death such a cartoonish, contemptuous literary obituary. of one of Canada's greatest internationally renown modern poets.

Posted by: Phil Mader at January 9, 2006 09:36 PM

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On the twelfth day of March 1912, Israel Pincu Lazarovitch, or Irving Layton, was born to Jewish parents in the Romanian town of Tirgul Neamt. There was an air of magic surrounding the birth of the youngest son of a quiet and deeply religious man and his dominant and practical wife. The child, who would one day grow up to be nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature, achieved early local fame due to his being born naturally circumcised, a sign which orthodox Jews believe is the mark of the Messiah. After Flamplatz, his mother's pet name for him (Yiddish for Exploding Flame), was told about the event surrounding his birth, he grew to believe in his own sense of destiny and immortality.

His family immigrated to Montreal in 1913, and was forced to live in a poor St. Urbain Street neighbourhood, later made famous by Mordecai Richler's novels. "Issie" and his older brothers and sisters faced daily struggles with, among others, the Montreal French Canadians, who were uncomfortable with the growing numbers of Jewish newcomers. "Issie" gained a reputation of fearlessness in the face of the attacks, and came to be called "Nappy," short for Napoleon, which also reflected his scrappy nature. When Irving was a young boy, his Mother was the centre of his world, and her little Flamplatz held the honour of being her youngest and favourite. Between receiving an alternating onslaught of Yiddish curses and warm displays of affection, Irving was taught about the duality of human nature, indeed of life itself. In addition, Layton's father Moishe (Moses), though unlike the colourful Keine (Klara), had a strong effect on his young son. A shy and almost docile man who felt he existed to visit the synagogue and study the Talmud in his small dark bedroom, Moishe had little direct contact with his children. Yet it was his strong sense of the Divine, of the Poetic, which would make its mark on the yet unhatched poet.

At thirteen years of age, after the death of his father in 1925 and after graduating from Alexandra Elementary School, Irving became a businessman--peddling household goods to Montrealers to the delight of his mother and sisters who considered this a worthwhile career. But despite their protests, Irving abandoned his short-lived and surprisingly successful stint as a door-to-door salesman and decided to enroll in Baron Byng High School where young Irving would be changed forever. Layton recalls hearing Mr. Saunders, his tenth grade English teacher, read Tennyson's ballad "The Revenge": "I'd never heard the English language so beautifully read, so powerfully rendered, and I remember sitting quietly in my seat and listening enraptured as the sounds filled the room...."

Irving's early literary influences included the poets Tennyson, Walter Scott, Wordsworth, Byron, and Shelly; the novelists Austen and George Eliot; the essayists Bacon, Goldsmith, Johnson, Addison, and Swift; and, of course, Shakespeare and Darwin. His hunger for knowledge was equalled only by that for truth, which led Layton into exploring political and philosophical thought. Among other writers, Layton began to read Marx and Nietszche, and though he began to deem himself a socialist, in later years Layton identified with the New Democratic Party of Canada. He joined the Young People's Socialist League for a short time, and had fierce debates with budding politicians such as David Lewis and poets such as A. M. Klein. With his "radical" ideas, Layton had become a threat to the Baron Byng administrative, and he was forced to leave before graduating. With little money, Layton had few options for higher education. With this in mind, he enrolled in MacDonald College in 1934 and received a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture.

Layton was writing more and more poetry, yet it did not attract the attention his later works would. However, at MacDonald College Layton wrote a column for the student newspaper "Failte Ye Times" which is where Layton's left-wing politics and radical ideas came into public view. In fact, some of the articles aroused so much suspicion by the students at "Mac" that years later Layton was blacklisted from entering the U.S.A. for almost fifteen years. In response to the articles he was writing, Layton founded the "Social Research Club" which served as a forum for opposing political views and featured speakers such as Dr. Norman Bethune. After years of participating in Montreal's social and political debates on a regular basis at places like Horn's Cafeteria, Layton's debating skills were formidable, and it was in 1935 that Layton and a schoolmate took on the Oxford-Cambridge debating team and won. Layton's speaking skills came to be his trademark, drawing large audiences at his peak.

In the mid 1930s, Layton met and befriended Louis Dudek, another young poet from Montreal. Their friendship was strong, but they often argued about their conflicting ideas about poetry, and their later feuds were much publicized. At this time, Layton continued to work odd jobs and still had no serious aspirations of becoming a writer, although one of Layton's short stories won the McGill Daily's prize. On the advice of his brother who had been living in the U.S., Layton spent a year in New York before returning to MacDonald College to complete his undergraduate degree.

The year was 1936, and Layton met Faye Lynch, the self-sufficient daughter of a middle-class family whom he would marry in 1938. Layton graduated from MacDonald College in 1939, and Faye and Irving moved to Halifax where Layton once again worked odd jobs, including working as a Fuller Brush Man. Realizing that he had married a woman he pitied but didn't love and being disenchanted by his life in general, Layton decided, one evening, to return to Montreal. He began teaching English to recent immigrants to make ends meet, and continued for many years. Indecisive about his future and enraged by Hitler's bloodshed, Layton enlisted in the Canadian army in 1942.

While serving as a Brigade Commander in Petawawa, Layton met Betty Sutherland, an accomplished painter (and later poet), while on leave. Layton would soon after divorce Faye and marry Betty. Their union would produce Layton's first two children: Maxwell Rubin (1946) and Naomi Parker (1950). Betty's brother was John Sutherland, a poet and the editor of First Statement, a literary magazine begun by Sutherland when the more established Preview rejected his submissions. Among Preview's editors were F. R. Scott, P. K. Page, A. M. Klein, and Patrick Anderson. In 1943, Layton was given an honorable discharge from the army and returned to Montreal for good.

Layton became a close friend of John Sutherland, and, along with Louis Dudek, became an editor of First Statement Press, lending his efforts to raising money for its upkeep. The first book published by the press was Layton's Here and Now in 1945. Later that year, First Statement and Preview united as Northern Review. At this time, the younger poets--Layton, Souster, Sutherland, and others--were at odds with an aging group of poets and their supporters, such as Northrop Frye, as to the nature and meaning of poetry itself. The younger group was adamant that poetry must express social realities in order to remain relevant, and that Canadian poets must forge their own identity rather than look to England to set the tone for the next century of writing.

Despite the disdain of all things British within their circle, John Sutherland introduced Layton to the British poets Auden, Yeats, Eliot, Spender, and, one of Layton's favourite writers, D. H. Lawrence, whose openness about sexuality intrigued him. In 1944, Layton wrote his first major poem, "The Swimmer," in Child's restaurant near the Princess Theatre in Montreal. Running into Child's and grabbing the waitress's pen, Layton scribbled the poem at a frenzied pace. Layton considers this to be a pivotal moment--he finally joined the ranks of poets and saw his destiny materializing.

Yet as Layton often says, artists must align themselves with reality in order to survive. So in 1946, after receiving his M.A. in Political Science with a thesis on Harold Laski, Layton considered teaching as a career. In 1949, Layton began teaching English, History, and Political Science at the Jewish parochial high school, Herzliah. He was an energetic and influential teacher and was well liked and respected by his students, many of whom became poets, writers, and artists. Among his students were poet/songwriter Leonard Cohen and television magnate Moses Znaimer. Layton would continue to teach for the greater part of his life: as a teacher of modern English and American poetry at Sir George Williams (now Concordia) University and as a tenured professor at York University in the 1970s, as well as delivering many lectures and readings throughout Canada. Layton would pursue his Ph.D. in 1948, under the auspices of Frank Scott, though he would abandon it due to the demands of his already hectic professional life.

During this time, Layton, distancing himself from the increasingly religious Sutherland, worked with Dudek and Souster to write Cerberus, a compilation of the three poets' work, which was published by Contact Press. (Layton became one of Contact Press's first editors, holding the position from the 50s until the early 60s.) Cerberus is an important book because it was written partly in response to Cid Corman's Origin and the energy that American poetry was expressing at this time. Layton now realized that he and his key contemporaries were part of a new movement in poetry--an energy that was moving away from the post World War I Romantic poetry that had been the mainstay for so long.

During this time, Layton's popularity increased dramatically, starting in 1951 with the publication of The Black Huntsmen. Irving continued to teach at Herzliah and Sir George Williams as well as occasionally lecturing at McGill in Political Science. He also continued to teach English and Literature at the Jewish Public Library, and it was here that Layton would meet and befriend Musia Schwartz, a woman who has remained a loyal friend to him for over five decades. By the mid 50s, Layton was more prolific than at any other time in his career, and many believe that his verse was at its best during this time. He gave many readings, received numerous awards, and appeared on the CBC televised debating program Fighting Words, where Layton, the fiercest debater, was crowned "Mr. Fighting Words." Layton was becoming well known for his booming voice, engaging personality, and anti-bourgeoisie attitudes. He enjoyed smashing Canada's puritanism and creating controversy. He gained international popularity, with Italy, Germany, and South Korea expressing interest in him. His books started being translated into Spanish, Italian, Greek and Korean.

At his most prolific, Layton was publishing a book almost every year: the pace not slowing until the mid 1980s. Layton soon began to win Canada Council grants, the first of which was in 1957 for The Improved Binoculars. By the mid 50s, Layton's work had become recognized by Canada's large publishing houses, and it was in 1959 that McClelland & Stewart published Layton's A Red Carpet for the Sun, which won the Governor General's Award. It was the beginning of a long-standing and mutually rewarding relationship between Layton and McClelland & Stewart, though Layton was also published by smaller publishing companies like Mosaic Press and foreign presses such as Spain's Divers Press and Greece's Hermia Publications. It was also in 1959 that Layton won the prestigious Senior Arts Fellowship. The fellowship enabled Irving to travel abroad and write, which he would continue to do for years to come, visiting places such as Italy, Israel, and India. Layton especially liked Greece, often staying with Cohen in Hydra or Molibos during the Canadian winters. While travelling in the late 60s, Layton wrote The Whole Bloody Bird (1969), a travel book of sorts and one of Layton's personal favourites. A departure from Layton's earlier books, it is not simply a collection of poetry, but also a compilation of daily observations about life, which Layton transforms into clever aphorisms as well as poems. Layton's personality is on full display; we see the ironic humour, the scathing wit, the amorous lover, and the aging prophet.

It was in the late 50s, the height of his career, when friends introduced Layton to the younger Aviva Cantor, a spirited woman with an artistic flair and love of books, and the two quickly became inseparable, Layton later making her his third wife. Irving and Betty would soon separate on friendly terms (they would remain friends until her death in 1984). Layton had been awarded several honorary degrees and was in high demand as a speaker and workshop teacher in Canada and abroad when he would become the proud father of another son, David (1964). Over the next few years, Layton's demanding schedule became the dominating force in his life, resulting in Irving and Aviva's decision to separate.

In the 1970s, Irving would befriend Harriet Bernstein, once a student of Layton's. After a whirlwind courtship, Irving married Harriet, and in 1981, a second daughter, Samantha Clara Layton, was born. The short-lived marriage to the woman from a wealthy and powerful Toronto family caused Layton much grief. The result of this grief was The Gucci Bag, which provided Layton an outlet through which to vent his sadness and frustration over his lost love and his separation from Samantha.

However, the early 1980s would not be devoid of joy. As Layton had hoped, he was nominated for the Nobel Prize by Italy and Korea, though eventually the prize would go to Gabriel Garcia Marquez. A few years later, Layton would meet Anna (Annette) Pottier, an aspiring painter and poet, at one of Irving's readings in the 1980s, and she would write to him asking for advice about writing poetry. Throughout his life, Irving has believed that his mother's presence protects and guides him, and so when he learned that Anna was born the day of his mother's death in 1959, he took it as a sign to commit to Anna, who became his fifth and last wife. They would live in the middle-class Notre Dame de Grace neighbourhood of Montreal from 1983 until the mid 1990s when the couple separated.

Since November 2000, Layton has been residing comfortably at Maimonides in Montreal, and is kept company by lifelong friend Musia Schwartz, two companions, and many friends and fans. Layton continues to receive regular requests from textbook publishers in Canada and the U.S. to reprint his work, establishing him as one of the most published poets in North America.

Throughout his career, Layton's "tell it like it is" style won him an equal amount of enemies and worshippers. Fighting a battle against Puritanism for most of his life, Layton's work had provided the bolt of lightening that was needed to split open the thin skin of conservatism and complacency in the poetry scene of the preceding century, allowing modern poetry to expose previously unseen richness and depth. The 1940s through to the 1960s were years of discovery, and many writers have acknowledged Layton as both Teacher and Prophet. Layton inspired many to follow his lead and tirelessly helped younger poets and writers in need. Throughout the years, Layton has bestowed his love of words, sound, and indeed his love of life itself upon audiences and readers. Leonard Cohen once said, "I taught him how to dress, he taught me how to live forever."

as a lasting memorial you can find irving memory's stored in http://www.liferecorded.co.uk please light a candle or leave a virtual flower.

Irving died 4 january 2006.

Posted by: William McCullough at January 14, 2006 12:46 AM

A Force to be Reckoned With, blog entry, Jan 5 06

http://moondoggy.blogspot.com/
by Greg Santos, Monstreal, Quebec
January 5th, 2006
On the death of Irving Layton

I was saddened to learn that Irving Layton passed away a few hours ago. I was working on some poetry of my own when my mom informed me of his death.

He was a certainly a force to be reckoned with in Canadian poetry and whether you liked him or not there is no doubt that he had a significant impact on CanLit.

Layton was living at the Maimonides Geriatric Centre not too far from Josh and we had been planning on visiting him to pay our respects.

I wrote a poem for Layton called Flamplatz (Yiddish for exploding flame and also his childhood nickname) while he was still alive. It celebrated the creative spark within the man and in his work. While we may no longer be able to visit him, we are all lucky that we can still revisit his poetry. Thank you Mr. Layton, we'll miss you.

posted by Greg at 8:21 PMby Greg

Glutton of Life, Monkeyfilter.com, blog entries Jan 5 06

http://monkeyfilter.com/link.php/10761

January 05, 2006

Irving Layton dead at 93. The poet and glutton of life, greatest of all the Montreal School of Poetry, winner of the GG for A Red Carpet for the Sun, Nobel nominee, greatest graduate of Baron Byng High, sole man on Earth born with the Messianic sign, has died. Thanks for the poetry, Mr. Layton.

posted by Capt. Renault at 02:16PM UTC [trackback] (9 comments total)
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Poetically, and possibly appropriately, linked Cap'n. Any examples of his poems? Specifically the naughty bits please. - I keed! A Google of same yeilds the same non-existent Yahoo page.

posted by petebest at 02:40PM UTC on January 05, 2006
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Yields.
I can spell. No, I can. Shut up.

posted by petebest at 02:41PM UTC on January 05, 2006
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Couldn't find a selection of his poetry online, but here's a nice little prose piece of his from the Dance With Desire collection. As much as Layton's poetry is lauded, he was a fine debater and essayist as well -- particularly his exposition on Othello, if you can ever dig that up.

posted by Capt. Renault at 03:02PM UTC on January 05, 2006
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Let the philosophers rave on about the summum bonum and mystics about embracing God. They are still vertical humans and therefore even their adorations still have something aggressive about them. Humans in the horizontal position have always struck me as less likely to be violent and destructive. So I take my place beside the poets, and less arrogant than the philosopher or mystic, am prepared to find the greatest good and embrace God whenever I hold a woman in the act of love. Beauty eh?

posted by petebest at 04:26PM UTC on January 05, 2006
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A respectful, if not entirely laudatory, eulogy. Globe and Mail Obit, with a few choice quotes, and an unpublished poem by Leonard Cohen, "Irving and Me at the Hospital".

posted by Capt. Renault at 05:01PM UTC on January 05, 2006
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Berry Picking

Silently my wife walks on the still wet furze
Now darkgreen the leaves are full of metaphors
Now lit up is each tiny lamp of blueberry.
The white nails of rain have dropped and the sun is free.

And whether she bends or straightens to each bush
To find the children's laughter among the leaves
Her quiet hands seem to make the quiet summer hush--
Berries or children, patient she is with these.

I only vex and perplex her; madness, rage
Are endearing perhaps put down upon the page;
Even silence daylong and sullen can then
Enamor as restraint or classic discipline.

So I envy the berries she puts in her mouth,
The red and succulent juice that stains her lips;
I shall never taste that good to her, nor will they
Displease her with a thousand barbarous jests.

How they lie easily for her hand to take,
Part of the unoffending world that is hers;
Here beyond complexity she stands and stares
And leans her marvelous head as if for answers.

No more the easy soul my childish craft deceives
Nor the simpler one for whom yes is always yes;
No, now her voice comes to me from a far way off
Though her lips are redder than the raspberries.

Irving Layton

posted by islander at 10:46PM UTC on January 05, 2006
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))) and thanks for the poem, islander!!! Capt. Renalt, thanks for the information touching the Montreal School of Poetry.

posted by beeswacky at 01:36AM UTC on January 06, 2006
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Top Canadian Poet, Phillyburbs.com, Jan 5 06

http://www.phillyburbs.com/pb-dyn/news/87-01052006-593560.html
Republished Associated Press article, Jan 5.

Link to Layton poem, blog entry

http://meaghanfrauts.blogspot.com/2006/01/irving-layton-1912-2005.html

Link to "The Bull Calf", blog entry

http://www.animaladvocacy.net/writing/layton.html

To the Girls, Globe & Mail, Jan 5 06

'If you are wondering what happened to us all, you might consult the poems of Irving Layton.' -- Leonard Cohen

By LYNN CROSBIE

Thursday, January 5, 2006 Page R1


To The Girls Of My Graduating Class

Wanting for their young limbs praise,

Their thighs, hips, and saintly breasts,

They grow from awkwardness to delight,

Their mouths made perfect with the air

About them and the sweet rage in the blood,

The delicate trouble in their veins.

Intolerant as happiness, suddenly

They'll dart like bewildered birds;

For there's no mercy in that bugler Time

That excites against their virginity

The massed infantry of days, nor in the tendrils

Greening on their enchanted battlements.

Golda, Fruma, Dinnie, Elinor,

My saintly wantons, passionate nuns;

O light-footed daughters, your unopened

Brittle beauty troubles an aging man

Who hobbles after you a little way

Fierce and ridiculous.

From A Wild Peculiar Joy: The Selected Poems by Irving Layton © 1982, 2004. Reprinted by permission of McClelland & Stewart Ltd.

Here is Irving Layton at his worst and best, in both cases, painfully alive and alert to desire and suffering; to beauty and its anguish; to the acute power of observance and elegy. Leonard Cohen, Layton's protégé, once spoke of the "great, aching tenderness" in Layton's work, work that has been vilified and adored, work that will be well-revenged for its ground-breaking, earth-shaking commitment to the very new, and very old, art of sweet rage and perfection. Layton's death, like Al Purdy's, signals the end of our beginning: May the angels greet him with mercy, and all of our love. Sic transit gloria mundi.

Etruscan Tombs

for Dante Gardini

Being so close to death

so many times

why should you be moved, as I am,

by these offenceless ruins?

I ask pardon for my abstracted gaze,

my impatience with your slow speech,

your gentle all-forgiving smile.

I did not spend my best years

in a concentration camp;

no vile humanoid ever

menaced me with gun and whip

or made me slaver for crusts

urine-soiled and stale;

no officered brute made me kneel in shit.

Here beside you in this remote scene

I feel death's cold finger on my skin,

making it twitch like a fly-stung mare's.

Yet these blank eyes sculpted

from grove and hill and rock

before which the centuries have passed unseen

comfort me; inuring me, I say,

to the sorrows our humanity

compels us to inflict on each other.

They teach me to live the free hours with gusto.

Nothing endures forever.

Your pain, my pleasure,

the seconds bear away;

our flesh, Dante, one day

will be such golden dust

as a storyless wind stirs

in an empty vault.

Norchia,

September 18, 1984

Brazen Brilliance, Hamilton Spectator, Jan 6 06

Brazen brilliance

Irving Layton: cultural cachet.
By Robert Howard
The Hamilton Spectator
(Jan 6, 2006)

He was brash, irreverent, bombastic and one of his own biggest admirers. But Irving Layton wrote poetry that knocked the socks off erudite literature professors and callow Grade 9 students alike.

Layton, who died this week at 93, was a genuine Canadian cultural icon. He was a flawed human being (as are we all) and his writing was not universally admired. But the best of his work (in more than 40 published books) fuses ego and imagination in a way that inspired and influenced generations of writers and readers.

His poems had their own influence on those ordinary Canadians who cannot recall a single line from their high school days -- but remember the "buzz" of reading Irving Layton. His was poetry borne of passion -- love and hate, rage and joy, justice and injustice, sex and ... well, more sex.

Layton's work was frankly, and scandalously, erotic and there were more than a few high-school teachers who admiringly taught his work, but could not bring themselves (or their students) to read it aloud.

In the '60s and '70s, when this country was painfully birthing itself into the sensibilities of the modern era and Pierre Trudeau was leading the reinvention of Canada's understanding of its place in the world, Layton was helping Canadians reinvent their understanding of literature, of art, of culture. His work -- and that of other Montrealers such as Leonard Cohen and author Mordecai Richler -- gave Canada a worldwide cultural cachet that lasts to this day.

Layton's voice was tragically stilled almost a decade ago by encroaching Alzheimer's disease, and his legacy has been muted by time -- little of his work is on school reading lists and much of his work is out of print. That's an enormous pity because beyond all the machismo and bluster is a great emotional depth and a stunning eloquence.

In 1997, a failing Layton told a reporter: "Poetry never let me down. My worry is, have I ever let poetry down." No fear there. Layton never did. And if there is any justice, his work will be rediscovered by a new generation. It's worth looking for.

Postings from the Leonard Cohen Forum

http://www.leonardcohenforum.com/viewforum.php?f=3

Grand Provocateur, Dece-Canada, Jan 5 06

Décès-Canada
Disparition d'un grand auteur et d'un grand provocateur

Irving Layton, dont les poèmes réalistes, satiriques et érotiques ont marqué le paysage littéraire canadien, est mort à l'âge de 93 ans.

Atteint de la maladie d'Alzheimer depuis une bonne dizaine d'années, l'auteur est mort dans un établissement de soins de longue durée à Montréal. Selon Lisa Blobstein, porte-parole du Centre gériatrique Maimonides, il était en phase terminale de la maladie.

Plus de 40 ouvrages
Auteur prolifique connu dans le monde entier, il a publié plus de 40 ouvrages de poésie et de prose en plus d'un demi-siècle. Lauréat de l'Ordre du Canada en 1976, l'écrivain montréalais a occupé plusieurs postes universitaires comme poète ou auteur-en-résidence, et a été en nomination pour le prix Nobel de littérature en 1982.

Il fut aussi le premier non-Italien à recevoir le prix Pétrarque d'Italie pour la poésie.

Hommage de Leonard Cohen
Le chanteur Leonard Cohen, l'un de ses amis, a dit à l'annonce de sa mort: « Il y avait Irving Layton, et il y avait les autres, ajoutant, « C'est notre plus grand poète. La maladie d'Alzheimer ne l'a pas fait taire, et la mort ne le fera pas non plus ».

Un auteur négligé à la fin de sa vie
À la fin de sa vie, pourtant, Irving Layton avait disparu des listes de lecture de référence des universités et des rayons des librairies.

Né Israël Lazarovitch, en Roumanie, le 12 mars 1912, il avait un an quand sa famille a émigré au Canada. A Red Carpet for the Sun l'a fait largement connaître et lui a valu un prix du Gouverneur général en 1959.

Provocateur
L'homme avait une réputation de provocateur, dont il semblait se délecter. Il a été marié à cinq reprises.

Sad News by Blog Monkey

i'm in montreal, lamenting his passing.

between him and leonard cohen, i was content.

sad news.

2:19 PM