Monday, January 09, 2006

The Book Guide.co.uk, London article, Jan 5 06

http://www.inprint.co.uk/thebookguide/shelf_life.shtml
Poet Irving Layton dies in Montreal at 93
January 5, 2006

Irving Layton, whose gritty, satiric and erotic poems left an indelible mark on Canada's literary landscape, died Wednesday. He was 93 ...and links to Vancouver Sun article (CP article, Jan 4).

Good Reports.net article, Jan 8 06

http://www.goodreports.net/
Links about Irving Layton: The Star (Marchand), CBC, Globe and Mail

Top of Canada's Literary Hierarchy, NY Sun, Jan 6 06

http://www.nysun.com/article/25455
Irving Layton, 93, Dean of Canadian Poets
By Associated Press
January 6, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Las Vegas Sun article, Jan 5 06

http://www.lasvegassun.com/sunbin/stories/w-na/2006/jan/05/010507890.html
Republished Associated Press article, Jan 5.

York University articles (2), Jan 6 06

http://www.yorku.ca/yfile/archive/index.asp?Article=5712
January 6, 2006

Canada's poet: Irving Layton

Canadians are mourning poet Irving Layton (right), a former professor of creative writing in York’s Faculty of Arts and an instrumental force in bringing Canadian poetry on to the world stage. Layton died Jan. 4 at 93 in Montreal, of complications from Alzheimer’s.

Born Israel Lazarovitch in Romania in 1912, Layton changed his name when he decided to become a poet. He had come to Canada when he was just a year old with his parents Moses and Keine Lazarovitch. The family settled in the working class St. Urbain neighbourhood of Montreal, later made famous by the late Canadian writer Mordecai Richler.

Layton’s mother was the dominant force in the Lazarovitch family. She supported Layton and his seven siblings by running a small grocery store. Schooled in a life of hard knocks in the rough and ready community of St. Urbain, Layton was expected to take over the family business but instead turned his eye to education earning an MA in economics and political science from Montreal’s McGill University in 1946.

Layton eventually became a teacher, first at a Montreal Jewish High School, and then as a political science professor at Sir George Williams University. Layton had become a strong socialist while at university and became active in the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation. Because of this activity he was blacklisted and banned from entering the United States for the next two decades.

Layton's activism and poetry had made him an internationally known celebrity by the 1950s and a fixture on early Canadian television. He travelled widely abroad and became especially popular in South Korea and Italy; in 1981 these two nations nominated him for the Nobel Prize for Literature. He did not win, but was honoured by the nomination. In 1976 he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada.

Layton published his first book of poetry in 1945 titled, Here and Now. Over the next decade he produced a slew of poetry books. He was considered a prolific, versatile, revolutionary and controversial poet of the "modern" school. He was one of a nucleus of young Montreal poets who believed they were effecting a revolution against insipid romanticism. His satire was generally directed against bourgeois dullness and his famous love poems were erotically explicit. He published numerous volumes of poems of unusual range and versatility and a few of prose. In 1956, his controversial book, The Improved Binoculars, caught the attention of publisher Jack McClelland who then published Layton’s breakthrough book A Red Carpet in the Sun. The work is considered by many to be one of Layton’s greatest works and it received the 1959 Governor General’s Award for Literary Merit. Layton theorized that poetry should be "vital, intense, subtle and dramatic," and A Red Carpet in the Sun provides ample proof of his description.

In addition to being a world-renowned poet, Layton was a professor of creative writing in York University’s Faculty of Arts from 1969 until 1978. Working in academia at York was the fulfillment of a dream for Layton and he embraced the persona of a poet professor with his legendary sense of drama. The years spent at York were the years of his greatest literary and public success. It was also while he was a York professor that he fell in love with former York student Harriet Bernstein (BA ‘75). After a brief courtship, Irving married Harriet, and in 1981, a second daughter, Samantha, was born. The marriage was short-lived and Layton wrote The Gucci Bag (1983), in which he vented his pain about his separation from Samantha, now a fourth-year creative writing student at York. In addition to Samantha, Layton leaves his children Max (1946), Naomi (1950) and David (1964).

In 1995, Layton was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and a group of friends looked after him until his savings ran out. He was moved to the Maimonides Geriatric Centre in the Côte Saint-Luc district of Montreal. He died at the Maimonides Geriatric Centre on Jan. 4, 2006.

Selected works by Irving Layton

* Here and Now (1945)
* Now Is the Place (1948)
* The Black Huntsman (1951)
* Cerberus, with Louis Dudek and Raymond Souster (1952)
* Love the Conqueror Worm (1953)
* In the Midst of My Fever (1954)
* The Shattered Plinths (1968)
* The Cold Green Element (1955)
* The Bull Calf and Other Poems (1956)
* A Laughter in the Mind (1958)
* A Red Carpet for the Sun (1959)
* Balls for a One-Armed Juggler (1963)
* The Laughing Rooster (1964)
* Periods of the Moon (1967)
* The Collected Poems of Irving Layton (1971)
* Engagements: The Prose of Irving Layton (1972)
* Lovers and Lesser Men (1973)
* The Pole-Vaulter (1974)
* Seventy-Five Greek Poems (1974)
* The Darkening Fire: Selected Poems 1945-1968 (1975)
* The Unwavering Eye: Selected Poems 1968-1975 (1975)
* For My Brother Jesus (1976)
* The Covenant (1977)
* Taking Sides: The Collected Social and Political Writings (1977)
* Droppings from Heaven (1979)
* A Wild Peculiar Joy (1982)
* The Gucci Bag (1983)
* Una Nuova Glaciazione (1985)
* Dance With Desire (1986)
* Final Reckoning: Poems 1982-86 (1987)
* Fortunate Exile (1987)
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Irving Layton was the country's 'greatest champion of poetry'
January 6, 2006

Irving Layton, who died Wednesday at 93, was the grand provocateur of Canadian literature, stated Robert Fulford in a National Post obituary Jan. 5, one of dozens published in newspapers across Canada about the famous poet who taught literature at York from 1969 to 1978. Layton believed that the emotional awakening of humanity was poetry's task and that his own job was to connect Canada, that dour nation, with the passionate life. He stood for the beauty and necessity of eroticism – a shocking position when he staked it out in the 1950s, though less so when public sexuality suffused the whole culture, suggested Fulford. Layton was always uniquely himself, wildly egotistical, richly talented – and for a time the undisputed king of Canadian poetry in English. He became an English teacher, first at a Jewish parochial high school in Montreal, then at Sir George Williams (now Concordia) University, later at York.

* Philip Marchand in the Toronto Star wrote that Layton’s long-time friend Leonard Cohen proclaimed him "our greatest champion of poetry" and added "Alzheimer's could not silence him, and neither will death." For years Layton was a magnetic presence teaching history and literature at a Jewish high school in Montreal before realizing a life-long ambition in 1969 when he became professor of English at York, noted Marchand.
* Sandra Martin in The Globe and Mail wrote that Layton was fond of referring to himself in the same breath as Shakespeare, Wordsworth and Keats, but, for all his bombast, he was a grand poet who wrote at least a dozen poems that will keep his name and his reputation alive. A prolific letter-writer, a mentor to generations of younger poets, including Leonard Cohen and Al Purdy, he brought an energy and an excitement to the writing of poetry in Canada beginning in the 1950s.

Brightest Literary Light, Kingston Frontenac Library, Jan 5 06

http://www2.kfpl.ca:8080/kfplsite/smallTalk
Thursday January 05, 2006
Irving Layton

The poet Irving Layton, one of Canada's brightest literary lights, died yesterday in Montreal at the age of 93. Known for his provocative outlook in both his work and his life, he won many awards and honours, including a Governor General's Award, three honourary doctorates, and two Nobel prize nominations. In 1976 he became an Officer of the Order of Canada.

Read his obituary on the CBC website.

Irving Layton's love of poetry began in Grade 10, when his teacher read aloud a poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson called "The Revenge."

You can read the text of Tennyson’s poem here, on the website of the History Department at George Washington University.

Read more about Irving Layton's life and work on the Canadian Poetry page from the University of Toronto Library.

To find Irving Layton's work in our library collection:
1. Visit our website at www.kfpl.ca
2. Type his name into the Library Catalogue search box.
3. Click the down-arrow and choose Author.

To hear him read some of his own poetry, listen to the cassette A Wild Peculiar Joy.

Or read some of his letters & memoirs:

Irving Layton and Robert Creeley : The Complete Correspondence, edited by Ekbert Faas and Sabrina Reed.

Wild Gooseberries : The Selected Letters of Irving Layton, edited by Francis Mansbridge.

Waiting for the Messiah : A Memoir, by Irving Layton with David O'Rourke.

An Unlikely Affair : The Irving Layton-Dorothy Rath Correspondence, with an introduction by Adrienne Clarkson.

Posted by zope at 00:00

Legendary Bad-Boy Poet, Arts News Canada, Jan 9 06

http://www.artsnews.ca/
From CBC Arts (originally posted on Monday, January 9, 2006)
Family and friends mourn maverick poet Layton

Legendary bad-boy poet Irving Layton was remembered in Montreal Sunday as a maverick genius by friends and family, who gathered to lay the 93-year-old to rest. Layton died Jan. 4 at a Montreal residence for seniors; he had been battling Alzheimer's for some time. The author of more than 40 books of poetry and essays is widely considered one of English Canada's pre-eminent poets. The various speakers remembered Layton as a flamboyant, audacious and one-of-a-kind great poet who transformed the Canadian literary landscape. Layton's daughter hopes his poetry will continue to be taught, studied and prized. "They ought to read [his poetry] because it shakes things up a lot more than other poets," said Samantha Bernstein. "He ought to be remembered for his love of life, I think, most of all for his tremendous joy in living. He loved to inspire people by his joy."

CBC Arts Posted on Monday, January 9, 2006

Gritty & Satiric, University of Toronto News Digest,, Jan 5 06

Poet Irving Layton dies in Montreal at age 93 [Go to Story]

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

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.''
CTV News
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Irving Layton, poet: 1912-2006 [Go to Story]

He was fond of referring to himself in the same breath as Shakespeare, Wordsworth and Keats, but, for all his bombast, Irving Layton was a grand poet who wrote at least a dozen poems that will keep his name and his reputation alive. A prolific letter writer, a mentor to generations of younger poets, including Leonard Cohen and Al Purdy, he brought an energy and an excitement to the writing of poetry in Canada beginning in the 1950s...

“Irving was like a one-man promotion machine for Canadian poetry in the 1950s,” said literary critic Sam Solecki, at a time when a bestseller sold maybe 250 copies in this country. “There was an energy that almost every reviewer, even those who didn't like him much at the start, recognized.” The University of Toronto English professor wrote the introduction to a selected edition of Mr. Layton's poetry, A Wild Peculiar Joy (published by M&S in 2004). Mr. Layton, said Prof. Solecki, always insisted that Canadian poetry be measured against the best of European, American and British work. “There was that historical moment when he made a huge statement that poetry is important and it's got to be modern.” What made Mr. Layton special as a mentor and a teacher, said Prof. Solecki, was the way he nurtured younger poets without trying to turn them into models of himself. He was like Nietzsche, who said the best student is the one who goes beyond the master. And he left behind stellar poems such as: A Tall Man Executes a Jig, The Swimmer, The Birth of Tragedy, Song for Naomi, The Cold Green Element, On Seeing the Statute of Ezekiel and Jeremiah in the Church of Notre Dame, Keine Lavorivitch: 1870-1959, The Tightrope Dancer and A Wild Peculiar Joy.
Globe and Mail

Canadian Bookseller's Association article, Jan 5 06

http://www.cbabook.org/news/article.asp?id=504
Republished Gazette article, Jan 4.

Then There Was the Rest of Us, Canadian Bookseller, Jan 5 06

http://www.cbabook.org/news/article.asp?id=504

Irving Layton 1912 - 2006
'There was Irving Layton, and then there was the rest of us' Leonard Cohen
By: ALAN HUSTAK, KATHRYN GREENAWAY of The Gazette


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

Read the full story in The Montreal Gazette.

Globe & Mail Requests Stories About Layton

Readers are invited to send 250-word reminiscences about people who have been the subject of a recent obituary (not a death notice) in The Globe. Submissions about a friend, colleague or loved one may be sent to: Obituaries Editor, The Globe and Mail, 444 Front St. W., Toronto, Ont., M5V 2S9. E-mail: obit@globeandmail.ca

I Remember Irving Layton, S. Nayman, Globe & Mail, Jan 7 06

http://www.theglobeandmail.com
I Remember Irving Layton
By SOL NAYMAN
Saturday, January 7, 2006 Page S9

Toronto -- Sol Nayman of Toronto writes about Irving Layton, whose obituary appeared on Thursday.

It was at Montreal's Herzliah Junior High that I was privileged to have been taught by Irving Layton in 1951 and 1952 and, especially, to be in the class immortalized in his poem, To The Girls Of My Graduating Class. Typically, he would write about the girls and not the boys.

He taught me life, he taught me passion, he taught me to reach for the unreachable, he taught me love . . . most things that today would be politically incorrect in a classroom. Most importantly, he taught me "English." For me, an immigrant who arrived in Canada three years earlier, it was the greatest gift that anyone could have given me.

When in Montreal, I visited him several times at the Maimonedes geriatric centre. While it was heartbreaking to see him in the throes of his debilitating illness, even behind the cloud of his pipe smoke, his eyes still sparkled and his voice still resonated. He still read his poetry as if he were in the classroom more than 50 years earlier.

Readers are invited to send 250-word reminiscences about people who have been the subject of a recent obituary (not a death notice) in The Globe. Submissions about a friend, colleague or loved one may be sent to: Obituaries Editor, The Globe and Mail, 444 Front St. W., Toronto, Ont., M5V 2S9. E-mail: obit@globeandmail.ca

I Remember Irving Layton, J.Chambers, Globe & Mail, Jan 9 06

http://www.theglobeandmail.com
I Remember Irving Layton
By JACK CHAMBERS
Monday, January 9, 2006 Page S9

Jack Chambers of the University of Toronto writes about Irving Layton, whose obituary appeared on Jan. 5.

In the early 1970s, when I arrived at the University of Toronto as an assistant professor in linguistics, obscenity trials were rife in Toronto courts of law. To my delight, I found myself in some demand as an expert witness on the linguistic pedigree of four-letter words. Usually, the trials were relatively sedate, and so I was taken by surprise when I arrived at courtroom 42 in Old City Hall on Jan. 17, 1973, and found it buzzing with reporters, cameras, law students and spectators. We were defending two pockmarked young clerks against charges of selling obscene paperbacks in a Yonge Street store.

The prosecution and defence made cursory examinations of me and another expert in their haste to get to the star witness, Irving Layton, then professor of literature at York University. Layton took the stand with bravura, and put on a vintage display. He quickly grew bored with answering the lawyers' questions and launched into an oracular and visionary declaration on the literary merits of the pulp fiction seized from the shelves of the store. Some of the novels, he said, should be in the university library, and he intended to make sure they were.

"The four-letter word has come into its own," he said. "In 1945, the reviewers fell on me for exploiting sex, but the public has caught up with me and Joyce and Faulkner." The books offer "plain, unwrapped sex," he said, perfectly normal human behaviour.

At this point the judge, Charles Drukarsh, leaned over and said, "Bestiality, Mr. Layton? Is bestiality 'perfectly normal human behaviour'?" Layton smiled up at him. "Listen, Your Honour," he said, "I lived on the Greek islands, and I can tell you, firsthand, that it is." The verdict was guilty (but it was overturned three years later). That day, the verdict got second billing.

Globe & Mail Quote of the Day, Jan 9 06

http://www.theglobeandmail.com
QUOTE OF THE DAY
Monday, January 9, 2006 Page A2

He taught us that poems should strive to make a difference in the world and constitute "a glow in the darkness of the wilderness we inhabit."

Poet David Solway, giving the eulogy for Irving Layton.

London Free Press article, Jan 9 06

http://lfpress.ca/newsstand/News/National/2006/01/09/1385129-sun.html
Mourners laud Layton
Mon, January 9, 2006
The Nobel- nominated poet, 93, was buried in Montreal.
By NELSON WYATT, CP

MONTREAL -- Irving Layton, whose poetry earned him a Nobel Prize nomination, was remembered yesterday as a man who inspired people to lofty goals with his words and yet viewed the world with a playful optimism.

"He was like a boy, he was my wild, peculiar boy," Anna Pottier, his fifth wife, said after a service at a west-end funeral home.

"We were like two girls in a dorm, basically, talking and talking and laughing and talking and travelling."

Layton, who died Wednesday at age 93, was known by some as provocative and abrasive but Pottier spoke of the man who playfully tried to swipe bagels from a bakery and saw hope in blades of grass poking through cracks in city sidewalks.

Federal Justice Minister Irwin Cotler, who addressed the mourners at the funeral, later invoked Layton's "transformative impact" on the lives of Canadians and his outrage at injustice.

Cotler, who met Layton when the poet taught him in Grade 7, credited the poet with teaching him "how to think."

"I learned how to struggle for justice and the only way you can do that is by struggling against injustice," he said.

But it was as a literary icon that poet-singer Leonard Cohen remembered his friend. He brought one of Layton's books to the service and read from it.

"He is our greatest poet," Cohen said afterward. "Our greatest champion of poetry and these lines will endure and there is no sadness, no lamentation, no sorrow, no regret at this moment because that which Irving loved the best, which was his work, will survive him.

"There is no doubt generations to come will learn these verses and they will transcend any positions, any political strategies, any literary strategies. They're here, they're written in stone and they'll be read for a long, long time."

Our Greatest Poet, Edmonton Sun, Jan 9 06

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

Farewell to Canada's 'greatest poet'

By CP

MONTREAL -- Irving Layton, whose poetry earned him a Nobel Prize nomination, was remembered yesterday as a man who inspired people to lofty goals with his words and yet viewed the world with a playful optimism.

"He was like a boy. He was my wild, peculiar boy," Anna Pottier, his fifth wife, said after yesterday's funeral service.

"We were like two girls in a dorm, basically, talking and talking and laughing and talking and travelling."

Layton, who died Wednesday at age 93, was known by some as provocative and abrasive, but Pottier spoke of the man who playfully tried to swipe bagels from a bakery and saw hope in blades of grass poking through cracks in city sidewalks.

It was as a literary icon that poet-singer Leonard Cohen remembered his friend. He brought one of Layton's books to the service and read from it.

"He is our greatest poet," Cohen said afterwards.

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

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

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

Funeral Coverage, CBC News Calgary, Jan 9 06

http://www.cbc.ca/story/canada/national/2006/01/08/layton-funeral060108.html
Republished CBC News article, Jan 8.
Original heading - Family, friends mourn maverick poet Layton
One of the last photos taken of poet Irving layton, who died at age 93. (CP Photo)

Funeral Coverage, CBC NewBrunswick, Jan 9 06

http://www.cbc.ca/story/arts/national/2006/01/08/irvinglayton-futneral.html
Republished CBC News article, Jan 8.
Original heading - Family, friends mourn maverick poet Layton

Funeral Coverage, CBC News, updated Jan 9 06

http://www.cbc.ca/montreal/story/qc-layton20060109.html
Layton laid to rest in Montreal
Last updated Jan 9 2006 08:04 AM EST
CBC News

Legendary bad-boy poet Irving Layton was remembered in Montreal Sunday as a maverick genius by friends and family, who gathered to lay the 93-year-old to rest.

Irving Layton in an undated photo. (Roloff Beny/Library and Archives Canada)

Layton died Jan. 4 at a Montreal residence for seniors; he had been battling Alzheimer's Disease for some time. The author of more than 40 books of poetry and essays is widely considered one of English Canada's pre-eminent poets.

Many of Layton's former students attended the funeral, including Federal Justice Minister Irwin Cotler, media innovator Moses Znaimer and singer and poet Leonard Cohen. They all spoke at the gathering.

"That which Irving loved the best, his work, will survive him, no doubt. Generations to come will learn these verses and they will transcend any positions, any political strategies, any literary strategies. They're here, they're written in stone, and they'll be read for a long, long time," said Cohen in his speech.

Cohen also read from Layton's poem The Graveyard.

The various speakers remembered Layton as a flamboyant, audacious and one-of-a-kind great poet who transformed the Canadian literary landscape.

Layton's daughter hopes his poetry will continue to be taught, studied and prized.

"They ought to read [his poetry] because it shakes things up a lot more than other poets," said Samantha Bernstein. "He ought to be remembered for his love of life, I think, most of all for his tremendous joy in living. He loved to inspire people by his joy."

Layton was honoured as a teacher, colleague, mentor, poet and friend — a man whose doors were always open to artists and writers. Layton was named to the Order of Canada in 1976.

Anna Pottier, his final companion, says she will remember the warmth of his heart.

"He crackled," recalled Pottier. "And he was like a boy. He was my wild, peculiar boy."

Layton spent much of his life battling the British hold on the Canadian literary scene and railing against the status quo. He was known for his provocative and sensual poetry, and also for his brash, larger-than-life public persona.

"Irving Layton felt the injustice around him. His poetry was a means of conveying that message of injustice and of mobilizing us in that struggle, and never to acquiesce in conventional wisdoms of the time or the political correctness that would pass for conventional wisdom but to be a voice for the voiceless," eulogized Cotler.

Layton married five women, each marriage ending in divorce. He leaves four children.

Funeral Coverage, Hamilton Spectator, Jan 9 06

http://www.hamiltonspectator.com
Republished Canadian Press article by N. Wyatt, Jan 8, with added photo of funeral and heading of:

'Larger than life' poet shook things up
Irving Layton was a 'voice for the voiceless' and railed against injustice

Photo - Ian Barrett, Canadian Press

Mourners at poet Irving Layton's funeral included poet and singer Leonard Cohen, shown carrying his casket, federal Justice Minister Irwin Cotler and media giant Moses Znaimer. Layton died last week at 93.

Funeral Coverage, Ottawa Citizen, Jan 9 06

http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen
Nobel-prize nominated poet remembered for his pizazz
Canadian wordsmiths, justice minister attend sombre Layton memorial
William Marsden, The Montreal Gazette; with files from The Canadian Press
Published: Monday, January 09, 2006
Nobel-prize nominated poet remembered for his pizazz
Canadian wordsmiths, justice minister attend sombre Layton memorial

Irving Layton was celebrated at his funeral yesterday for his bold verses and promotion of Canadian poets, including himself.
Photograph by : Richard Arless Jr., The Montreal Gazette

William Marsden, The Montreal Gazette; with files from The Canadian Press
Published: Monday, January 09, 2006

MONTREAL - Irving Layton, one of Canada's greatest and most prolific contemporary poets, was celebrated at his funeral yesterday for his flamboyant creativity, bold verses and unflinching promotion of Canadian letters -- and of himself.

The funeral was an uncharacteristically sombre affair for a man who was -- and will continue to be in verse -- so powerful and boisterous a voice.

Other than a recitation of kaddish -- the Jewish prayer for the dead -- the funeral had little religious content, befitting an irreverent artist whose spiritual home was verse.

Canadian poets were dominant speakers, beginning with Samantha Bernstein, Layton's daughter by his fourth wife and one of his four children.

She opened the funeral by reading a poem she wrote to her father in 2002.

It was a poem about reading Layton's poetry, making light of his often wordy, encyclopedic style and his need to assault the stiff sensitivities of Canadian society.

"I read four poems and look up six words/ Two of them are not in my dictionary/ With gusto he pissed people off."

"He was like a boy, he was my wild, peculiar boy," Anna Pottier, Layton's fifth wife, said after the service at a west-end funeral home.

Layton, who died Wednesday at age 93, was known by some as provocative and abrasive, but Pottier spoke of the man who playfully tried to swipe bagels from a bakery and saw hope in blades of grass poking through cracks in sidewalks.

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

Pottier, who separated from Layton after his diagnosis in 1995, said it was hard to see him go downhill.

"To have watched a mountain be reduced to grains of sand -- it was beyond me," she said.

Author of more than 50 books of poetry, Layton was named to the Order of Canada in 1976, held several university posts and was nominated for the Nobel Prize for literature in 1982.

Federal Justice Minister Irwin Cotler, who addressed the mourners at the funeral, later invoked Layton's "transformative impact" on the lives of Canadians and his outrage at injustice.

Cotler, who met Layton when the poet taught him in Grade 7, credited the poet with teaching him "how to think."

"I learned how to struggle for justice, and the only way you can do that is by struggling against injustice," he said.

"Irving Layton felt the injustice around him. His poetry was a means of conveying that message of injustice and mobilizing us in that struggle."

He described him as "a voice for the voiceless."

Media mogul Moses Znaimer, who also had Layton as a Grade 7 teacher, saw him then "as a rock star."

Znaimer described him as a man who was willing to "play the role of a poet, a man who was willing to fuse his personality with the work.

"He realized you could teach with celebrity and glamour and move people not only by the words, but by the force of your personality."

Znaimer said Layton drew criticism for his showmanship in the public eye but suggested his flamboyance made him a trailblazer for the celebrity-fixated society of the future.

Poet and singer Leonard Cohen, looking quietly sartorial in a light grey peaked cap and a long brown coat with a fur collar, said to subdued laughter among the 250 mourners: "Irving would be very annoyed if there were this many people here and none of his poems were read."

Noting that Layton will continue to live in his poetry, he recited a Layton poem, The Graveyard, about the regenerative capabilities of opposing forces.

"He is our greatest poet," Cohen said afterward. "Our greatest champion of poetry and these lines will endure and there is no sadness, no lamentation, no sorrow, no regret at this moment because that which Irving loved the best, which was his work, will survive him.

"There is no doubt generations to come will learn these verses and they will transcend any positions, any political strategies, any literary strategies. They're here, they're written in stone and they'll be read for a long, long time."

Funeral Coverage, The Gazette, Jan 9 06

The Montreal Gazette
Unorthodox funeral honours poet
Leonard Cohen pays tribute to Irving Layton
Poet and songwriter Leonard Cohen (left) arrives with Moses Znaimer for the funeral service of poet Irving Layton yesterday. Photograph by : PHIL CARPENTER, THE GAZETTE
MIKE BOONE, The Gazette
mboone@thegazette.canwest.com
Published: Monday, January 09, 2006

The celeb whom stargazers were waiting to see didn't show up until the last minute.

By the time Leonard Cohen slipped into one of the back rows of the chapel at Paperman's yesterday, most of the 250 people who had come to remember Irving Layton were seated at the front. Wearing a stylish grey tweed cap, fur-collared topcoat and California tan, Cohen tapped his foot to Beethoven's Ode to Joy and chatted quietly with Moses Znaimer.

The poet/singer-songwriter/zen master and the U.S.S.R.-born, Montreal-raised TV visionary were then dragooned into impromptu duty by a federal cabinet minister. Irwin Cotler took Cohen and Znaimer to meet Layton's family, and the duo was drafted, Znaimer as master of ceremonies and Cohen as one of eight eulogists - an octet that included seven poets and no rabbis.

Leadoff speaker Samantha Bernstein, youngest of his four children, recited Layton, Irving. In the poem, she writes about looking up her father in the World Book encyclopedia and finding "a few paragraphs, below laxatives and above Lazarus."

Cohen followed and observed: "Irving would be very annoyed if there were this many people here and none of his poems was read."

Declining to relate anecdotes that "don't bear repeating," Cohen insisted "what bears repeating endlessly are these poems that live and will continue to live."

Cohen then read - in that great, smoke-cured voice - Layton's The Graveyard, which ends with: "the voice whispering in the tombstones: rejoice, rejoice."

You don't often hear non-liturgical poetry read at a Jewish funeral. Because the Layton proceedings were unorthodox (in both senses of the word), I was hoping for an elegiac limerick, with double entendres and sly allusions to the poet's energetic pursuit and exuberant celebrations of what he called "the delirium and ecstasy of love."

But it's difficult to rhyme anything with Tirgu Neamt, the Romanian town where Layton was born. Maybe "who dreamt" - but it's a stretch. Sadly, Layton's self-imposed 1970s exile was spent in Toronto, not Nantucket.

In his eulogy, David Solway said Layton could "bluster with the best of them" and wrote "more world-class poems than his predecessors, contemporaries and successors combined." Cotler, who would end the service by reciting kaddish, the mourner's prayer, described Layton's work as "an abiding

jeremiad against injustice."

By most accounts, the man being mourned would have loved everything about his memorial. Znaimer described Layton as "willing to play the role of a poet and fuse his personality with his work."

"Irving Layton was a great showman," Znaimer added, after the service. Canadian literati were not enamoured of showmanship, but Layton wore the scorn of the establishment like a badge of honour.

Layton understood - as does Cohen, his most notable protege - the role of the public poet. And like Cohen and other performers, Layton played to the upper balcony.

Montreal poet and CEGEP professor Endre Farkas remembered Layton visiting John Abbott College to speak to students.

"Just before class began, Layton ruffled his hair and rolled up his sleeves," Farkas recalled. "He knew how to play to an audience."

Znaimer compared the poet to a rock star. During the 1950s, when the CBC was Canada's only television network - "getting a 100 share," Znaimer quipped - Layton would appear on programs like Fighting Words - for which he was never at a loss.

Layton became the talk-show booker's go-to guy. The Montreal poet fixed his leonine gaze on the lens of a black-and-white camera and reliably delivered the kind of literate and witty bon mots we don't often hear on late-night TV.

Layton wasn't Letterman.

He was, however, a man of letters - back in the day when words mattered.

mboone@thegazette.canwest.com

Provocative and Abrasive, The Brandon Sun, Manitoba, Jan 9 06

http://www.brandonsun.com/story.php?story_id=15173
Layton remembered for his influence, talent
By: Wire Services

MONTREAL — Irving Layton, whose poetry earned him a Nobel Prize nomination, was remembered Sunday as a man who inspired people to lofty goals with his words and yet viewed the world with a playful optimism.

Layton, who died Wednesday at age 93, was known by some as provocative and abrasive but Anna Pottier, his fifth wife, spoke of the man who playfully tried to swipe bagels from a bakery and saw hope in blades of grass poking through cracks in city sidewalks.

Federal Justice Minister Irwin Cotler, who addressed the mourners at the funeral, later invoked Layton’s ‘‘transformative impact’’ on the lives of Canadians and his outrage at injustice.

‘‘Irving Layton felt the injustice around him. His poetry was a means of conveying that message of injustice and mobilizing us in that struggle.’’

Layton died after a lengthy battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

Funeral Coverage, The Globe & Mail, Jan 9 06

The Globe and Mail
Layton inspired a generation, friends and family say
He was irascible, irreverent, demanding -- and a lot of people loved him
By MICHAEL POSNER

Monday, January 9, 2006 Page A3

MONTREAL -- Irving Layton himself might have protested mightily -- just to stir things up.

Some 700 friends, family members, former students and long-time admirers gathered for his funeral yesterday morning at Montreal's Paperman & Sons -- among them, poet and songsmith Leonard Cohen, broadcaster Moses Znaimer and Liberal cabinet minister Irwin Cotler.

They came to honour the memory of the man considered by many Canada's greatest poet.

Mr. Layton died last week at 93 after a long struggle with Alzheimer's disease.

But despite the celebratory tone, it was a largely solemn affair and, as his friend poet Andy Wainright said afterward, "probably a little formal for Irving.

"He would have leavened the mood."

During a one-hour ceremony, Mr. Layton was characterized by a series of speakers as an irascible, lusty lion of Canadian letters, by turns querulous and tender, raging against inequity and injustice, mediocrity and political correctness, and in his later years, not wanted on the voyage of the Canadian literary establishment.

"Irving would have been very angry if there were this many people here and none of his poems were read," said Mr. Cohen, who flew in from Los Angeles.

Mr. Cohen then read Mr. Layton's The Graveyard, which ends with the lines: "There is no pain in the graveyard, for the voice whispering in the tombstone, rejoice, rejoice."

"Whatever was between Irving and I . . . does not bear repeating," Mr. Cohen added. "But what does bear repeating and will be repeated endlessly are these poems, which live and will continue to live."

Mr. Layton's daughter, Samantha Bernstein -- one of three of the poet's four children who attended the funeral -- also read a poem: her own work, called Layton, Irving. In it, she tells of reading four of her father's poems.

"I looked up six words," she said. "Two of them were not in my dictionary."

Mr. Znaimer, who was a student of Mr. Layton's in Montreal in the 1950s, said that what he would remember most was that, while "he was truly the poet who did the work, he was also the man who would be the poet, play the role . . . teach with celebrity and glamour, and move people with the force of your personality and image.

"I learned a lot from that."

Montreal poet David Solway began with a joke about an old Jew eating in a restaurant, his table heaped with food of every description.

Outside, a poor, hungry Jew watches him eat and finally forces himself to go in. "I haven't eaten for days," he pleads.

The diner turns to him and says, "force yourself."

Mr. Layton, Mr. Solway said, was like the diner in the sense that his table groaned with life itself, "and the rest of us were outside wanting to partake. Force yourself, Irving would have said. That's what he taught us to do."

In his eulogy, Mr. Solway said Mr. Layton's poetry constituted a warning against pedantry, consensus and diffidence.

"He taught us not to toe the party line and not to be like him, except in so far as we were like ourselves."

Mr. Layton, he noted, had made himself "a man of his time by being a man against his time, abrasive but warm-hearted. He taught us that poems should strive to make a difference in the world and constitute 'a glow in the darkness of the wilderness we inhabit.' "

Mr. Wainwright, who is also a novelist and literature professor at Dalhousie University, said he shared many happy times with Mr. Layton on the Greek island of Lesbos, sitting, talking, reading and occasionally swimming.

He compared Mr. Layton's swimming stroke to watching leaves turn colour: "You knew it was happening, but you never saw it." He said he could finish half of War and Peace in the time it took Mr. Layton to swim from the beach out to an old abandoned wharf and back.

At which point, Mr. Layton would say, "Nothing like a quick dip."

Poet and University of Ottawa professor Seymour Mayne recalled how Mr. Layton visited his Grade 6 Hebrew school class on June 13, 1957, and asked the class to spell the word "embarrass."

Most of the students could not.

"But then he flipped it around and showed us how the word was close to another word, 'embrace.' It was a rhapsodic balance. He loved to embarrass us -- embarrass the government, the country. But he also embraced us, and his poems will embrace us forever."

Mr. Cotler, a student of Mr. Layton's and later his friend, told the assembly that they were gathered "to remember him, but not to mourn. Irving would have none of that."

Mr. Cotler said he remembered Mr. Layton reading to his class from his then work in progress Red Carpet for the Sun, the 1959 collection of poems that first made his national reputation, "and the poem is alive for me today as it as then." In the introduction to that volume, Mr. Layton wrote that "poetry, by giving dignity and utterance to our distress, enables us to hope, makes compassion reasonable."

"Challenging, probing, audacious, inspiring, use whatever adjective you want," Mr. Cotler said. "He was always, always, the voice of the voiceless, profoundly Jewish although not religious."

At an event in Mr. Layton's honour at Montreal's Centaur Theatre in the 1990s, the poet called Mr. Cotler his "spiritual son." Yesterday, Mr. Cotler returned the compliment, recalling that he had last seen Mr. Layton some weeks ago at the Montreal elderly care hospital where he resided for the last several years. Even with most of his cognitive faculties lost, Mr. Cotler said, "he was for me in that moment, and in many moments, my spiritual father."

Another former student, Gila Cupchik, who drove in from Toronto for the funeral, compared Mr. Layton to a caged lion who prowled the classroom, a rabblerouser who annoyed, vexed and harassed, and the greatest teacher she ever had.

"He demanded attention. After him, you could never buy anything from a salesman, because he taught us to dig deep, to question motives. And he exuded an energy that spoke far louder than whatever the subject was.

"To a 13-year-old girl, he was the epitome of sexuality. And he never bothered with an eraser. He just crossed things off. His life was like that too. He never used an eraser."

Ms. Cupchik wondered whether Alzheimer's patients regained their former lucidity when they passed away. "Because he would give God such an argument."

After the reading of two traditional Hebrew prayers, pallbearers carried Mr. Layton's coffin laden with white roses to a silver hearse.

He is expected to be cremated and his ashes buried on Mount Royal.

Funeral Coverage, The Toronto Star, Jan 9 06

Literate farewell for Irving Layton
Poet eulogized as `audacious and steadfast'
Memorial mixes readings, laughter and reminiscence
Jan. 9, 2006. 10:26 AM
MARTIN PATRIQUIN
SPECIAL TO THE STAR

MONTREAL—Irving Layton's funeral was a little like his life: passionate, ribald, laugh-out-loud funny, with the faintest whiff of sadness.

In a remarkably lighthearted ceremony, in which Beethoven's Ode to Joy played not long before Layton's body was wheeled out in an enormous white casket, a small cadre of Canadian poets, politicians and celebrities sang the praises of the famously cantankerous writer. Layton died Wednesday at 93.

"What happened between Irving and me is between us and doesn't bear repeating," said Leonard Cohen, in a rusty and morose baritone. "But what does bear repeating, and will be repeated, are his words."

Cohen went on to read "The Graveyard" from A Wild Peculiar Joy, one of Layton's collections of poems.

Media mogul Moses Znaimer officiated at the ceremony before several of Layton's children and ex-wives (he was married five times), as well as friends, well-wishers, fans, students and journalists.

"He was willing to play the role of the poet," Znaimer recalled from the funeral home podium.

"He showed that you could teach people not just with words but with a force of personality. I learned a lot from that."

Minister of Justice Irwin Cotler, whom Layton taught at Montreal's Herzliah High School, remembered the poet as a "teacher, mentor, colleague and friend," a "profoundly Jewish but not religious" man who was constantly "railing against injustice" in terms that approached the biblical.

"Jeremiah must have looked and sounded like Irving Layton," Cotler said.

Samantha Bernstein, Layton's 24-year-old daughter, read a poem she wrote three years ago. Titled "Layton, Irving," it described how she came to know her father through an encyclopedia entry. "There you were, between laxative and Lazarus," she read, eliciting laughter.

Bernstein came to know Layton only at 16. Before that, she said, her mother would urge her to read Layton's books to find out about her father. "I got to know him through his prefaces," she said. "He spent a lot of time trying to figure out how I was like him" once they met.

Bernstein is studying creative writing at York University, where her father once taught.

Another speaker, poet David Soloway, remembered how Canadian literati had a certain disdain for Layton.

"Can Lit tried to bury him before his time," Soloway said. "He wanted greatness to emerge from the swamp of mediocrity. He was flamboyant, audacious, and steadfast. He will survive those who survive him."

Cohen, Znaimer and Cotler were among the pallbearers. As they wheeled the coffin into the back of the hearse, Anna Pottier, who described herself as Layton's "fifth and final wife," broke into tears. Pottier and Layton had been together from 1980 to 1995, and remained close after their separation.

"We were married somewhere over the Atlantic" on a flight to Rome, she recalled yesterday.

Pottier said their separation was as uncharacteristic as their marriage, with Layton urging her to move on in the mid-'90s. His mind was slipping, Pottier said, remembering how painful it was to see Alzheimer's erase his memories. "It was coming for a long time, but the finality ... it's a kicker," Pottier said.

"He had a huge life, an enormous life."