Wednesday, January 18, 2006

New Fan (and Layton poem), blog entry, Jan 5 06

http://www.roomsix.com/2006/01/irving-layton-dead-at-93.htm
Irving Layton dead at 93
Posted by Brian, Nova Scotia, Canada
January 5, 2006

It's ironic. I was just starting to read some of his stuff and whammo, he's in the newspaper, dead at 93.

This was one of his poem's that really stood out for me while browsing through one of his collections:

Butterfly on Rock — Irving Layton

The large yellow wings, black-fringed,
were motionless

They say the soul of a dead person
will settle like that on the still face

But I thought: the rock has borne this;
this butterfly is the rock's grace,
its most obstinate and secret desire
to be a thing alive made manifest

Forgot were the two shattered porcupines
I had seen die in the bleak forest.
Pain is unreal; death an illusion:
There is no death in all the land,
I heard my voice cry;
And brought my hand down on the butterfly
And felt the rock move beneath my hand.

In Memory, blog entry, Jan 5 06

http://bumper-crop.blogspot.com/2006/01/in-memory.html
In Memory.
Posted by gabardinesuit
January 5, 2006

"We love in another's soul whatever of ourselves we can deposit in it; the greater the deposit, the greater the love." - Irving Layton

"A poet, short-story writer, and essayist, Irving Layton is perhaps the most well-known of the Montreal poets, a group of young poets who engaged in a battle against romanticism in poetry in the 1940's. Layton has published many poetry collections, including A Red Carpet for the Sun (1959) which won the Governor General's Award. Layton has been poet-in-residence at various Canadian universities and was professor of English at York University 1969-78. Layton was nominated for the Nobel Prize in 1981."

Globe and Mail: "His often boisterous behaviour and anti-bourgeois attitude earned him as many admirers as it did detractors, and his notoriety became legendary among Canadian poets." Read more here.

posted by gabardinesuit at 10:06 AM

C’était Notre Meilleur Poète, blog entry, Jan 15 06

http://raymondcloutier.blogspot.com/2006/01/50-ans-plus-tard.html
50 ans plus tard!
Vous m’en lirez tant. Le dimanche 15 janvier 2006
Posted by Raymond Cloutier, Montreal, Quebec

Mercredi voilà 10 jours j’apprenais l’existence du plus grand, du plus respecté, des poètes montréalais, québécois, anglophones. Je suis abasourdi! Le seul poète montréalais, anglophone que je connaisse c’est Leonard Cohen. Et voilà que Cohen saute dans un avion, pour venir faire l’eulogie d’un écrivain de 93 ans tout juste décédé.
-Il y avait Irving Layton, dit Cohen, et il y avait les autres. C’était notre meilleur poète et le plus grand champion de la poésie.
Déjà célèbre et contestataire dans les années 40, comment se fait-il que personne, jamais personne ne m’en ait parlé. J’ai été enfermé dans 4 collèges classiques durant 8 ans, puis 4 ans dans un conservatoire entre 55 et 68. Des oblats, des Ste croix, des séculiers, des laïcs, détenteurs de maîtrises et de doctorats, des artistes cultivés, des littérateurs de tout acabit, et personne, jamais personne ne m’a mentionné l’existence de cet Irving Layton. Plusieurs fois finaliste au prix Nobel de littérature, il avait élevé près d’ici sur la rue Ste Élisabeth, puis a passé sa vie sur le Plateau avant que ce ne soit « The Plateau ». Il a enseigné et influencé des générations d’écrivains et de lecteurs, enfin ceux qui le connaissaient. Pas moi et pas des milliers et des milliers comme moi qui, pour toutes sortes de raisons, n’ont pu rencontrer son œuvre. Les deux solitudes ont aussi cette conséquence!
Et je suis presque convaincu que si Leonard Cohen n’était pas devenu chansonnier, puis méga star, je ne l’aurais jamais connu, lui non plus. D’ailleurs qui aujourd’hui enseigne la poésie de Cohen au secondaire ou au collégial dans l’univers francophone et qui enseigne Miron aux anglophones?. La mort de cet Irving Layton, dont j’ai hâte de lire la poésie brute, va peut-être provoquer une prise de conscience, un changement de posture. On compare son importance dans la communauté anglophone à celle de Gaston Miron chez les francophones. N’est-ce pas étrange d’ignorer dans une même ville, un même quartier, une même société, des génies de quelques origines soient-ils? Pourquoi accorderai-je l’existence aux poètes Américains, aux romanciers Irlandais, aux nouvellistes Arabes en ignorant ceux qu’inspirent la même géographie du paysage et de l’âme que la mienne? Pourquoi ce refus réciproque du voisin, cette fuite ailleurs, ces vies en silo, emmurées chacunes dans sa solitude. Le génie artistique, littéraire, quel qu’il soit, ne peut être caché, mis au ban sous prétexte qu’en l’occultant il n’existera pas. Qu’on n’aime ça ou pas, nous ne le saurons jamais avant de l’avoir fréquenté!
-Alors on vous promet un Irving Layton, poète de la semaine dès que nous mettrons la main sur les traductions de ses poèmes par Michel Albert aux éditions Triptyques! Et surtout dès que nous l’aurons lu 50 ans plus tard. Mais comme on se dit toujours, il n’est jamais, jamais trop tard!

Raymond Cloutier.

Danish Tribute (and Layton poem), blog entry, Jan 5 06

http://tekakwita.blogspot.com/2006/01/irving-layton-1912-2006.html
Irving Layton, 93 er død.
Irving Layton 1912-2006
Posted by Joe @ torsdag, Denmark
January 5, 2006

Irving Layton, 93 er død. Den første store canadiske digter, der for 50 år siden blev Leonard Cohens første mentor og lærer. De har siden været venner. Leyton nåede at blive nomineret til Nobel prisen i litteratur i et langt og produktivt liv. Han har siden 2000 været ramt af Alzheimers. Cohen skriver om ham i dag:

"He is our greatest poet, our greatest champion of poetry. Alzheimer's could not silence him, and neither will death."

Misunderstanding

I placed
my hand
upon
her thigh.
By the way
she moved
away
I could see
her devotion
to literature
was not
perfect.

Irving Layton, 1956

"It is as dangerous to overestimate the goodness of people
as to underestimate their stupidity."

posted by Joe @ torsdag, januar 05, 2006

A Deep Desire for Difference (and Layton poem), blog entry, Jan 9 06

http://www.livejournal.com/community/bibliophiles/108875.html
Posted by whitealchmist
January 9, 2006

In Memory of Irving Layton

Last week, Irving Layton - Nobel Prize winner and one of Canada's most celebrated poets - passed away. I heard this news on CBC Radio and realized that while the name was familiar I knew nothing of his work, and given what the news report had to say about him, it seemed high time to correct this negligence.

So I picked up a volume of his work, A Wild Peculiar Joy, and I wish I could have called myself a fan while he was still alive. He has all the things I love most about the best Canadian writers - an understated social conscience, a quirky sense of humour, and a deep desire for difference. He reminds me of Leonard Cohen in some ways, understandable given that they both worked in Montreal and were near-contemporaries. Anyone interested in this sort of poetry, I strongly encourage you to seek out his work in more detail. I hunted through my new book for a sampler and resisted his more profound stuff in favour of this lovely gem for my fellow lit-nerds:

Misunderstanding

I placed
my hand
upon
her thigh.

By the way
she moved
away
I could see
her devotion
to literature
was not
perfect.

COMMENTS:

jitendra
2006-01-09 10:53 pm
my canadian lit prof told our class about it the other day. He had us add Layton's date of death to our anthologies.

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quirky_rocket
2006-01-10 01:30 am
I like that =)

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katcanread
2006-01-10 06:34 am
That's sad =(. I came across his work in 2004 as part of a writing class at uni, and I and the whole class had great fun reading it aloud! R.I.P Layton! Thanks for sharing whitealchemist

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minky_delaney
2006-01-10 03:04 pm
a quietly splendid poem, it made me smile.

Through his Writing, blog entry, Jan 5 06

http://www.livejournal.com/users/crazyliza/17298.html
Irving Layton 1912 - 2006
Posted by Crazyliza
January 5, 2006

I never knew him but through his writing, and found he could be fierce, passionate, and at times bombastic. In my opinion, the perfect attributes for a poet. I hope he has found peace.

09 January, 2006: Just found a blog named Irving Layton Remembered. Click here to get to it.

Henry Miller Counterpart, blog entry, Jan 5 06

http://blueapples85.blogspot.com/2006/01/irving-layton-1912-2006.html
Irving Layton, Canadian poet, died today at age 93.
Posted by S.M. Elliot
January 5, 2006

Richard introduced me to Irving Layton, the poet I consider a Canadian counterpart to my favourite novelist, Henry Miller. Both were underappreciated, sometimes reviled, and frequently forgotten. (They were the "dirty old men" of contempo lit, but Layton had the additonal stigma of being Jewish.) 80% of Irving's poetry isn't suitable for my PG-rated blog and that's why I admire him: He was honest and direct at a time when honesty and directness were the last things people wanted from poetry. They wanted pretty poems that inspired without getting too nasty, too uncomfortably true.
Once, when Richard told a librarian he was looking for Irving Layton books, she snorted and replied, "God, why?"
So, if you've never heard of the dude, I highly recommend (at the very least) reading this brief article from the CBC: http://www.cbc.ca/story/arts/national/2006/01/04/Layton-Obit.html. It has some timeless quotes from Layton (and shows quite a lot of his overblown ego too - but what poet doesn't have that problem?).

COMMENTS:

The Zombieslayer said...

Dirty old men?

I hope when I'm old, I'm a dirty old man. I want to be like that old man who married Anna Nicole Smith. I'll even whip out a poem or two.

R.I.P. Mr. Layton.
9:15 PM

SME said...

I guess the poetry's optional. :P
8:42 PM

Full Explanation is Elusive (and Layton poem), blog entry, Jan 9 06

http://ctcthoughts.blogspot.com/2006/01/irving-layton-by-request.html
Irving Layton by Request
Posted by Cathy, Canada
January 9, 2006

FOR IRVING

He holds meaning for me,
Even my husband did not know
Full explanation is elusive.
But the words, the swirls of emotion
And passion of learning.
Swept through me. So few could reach
The closets of my heart.

-CATHY

But, now for some real poetry, Canadian style. Irving Layton (from the early 1950s to the mid-1970s) was the most popular and most controversial poet in Canada. I have selected two, non-controversial ones from A Wild Peculiar Joy:

SONG FOR NAOMI

Who is that in the tall grasses singing
By herself, near the water?
I can not see her
But can it be her
Than whom the grasses so tall
Are taller,
My daughter,
My lovely daughter?

Who is that in the tall grasses running
Beside her, near the water?
She can not see there
Time that pursued her
In the deep grasses so fast
And faster
And caught her,
My foolish daughter.

What is the wind in the fair grass saying
Like a verse, near the water?
Saviours that over
All things have power
Make Time himself grow kind
And kinder
That sought her,
My little daughter.

Who is that at the close of the summer
Near the deep lake? Who wrought her
Comely and slender?
Time but attends and befriends her
Than whom the grasses though tall
Are not taller,
My daughter,
My gentle daughter.


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.

There are 316 more in this compilation. So how can two be representative? They're not.

Fiery Eyes of Pure Coal, blog entry, Jan 8 06

http://guitargirlsdigitaldiary.blogspot.com/2006/01/irving-layton-1912-2006-photo-by.html
posted by Lynda Marks Kraar
January 8, 2006

I did a poetry reading with Canadian poet laureate Irving Layton at Grossman's Tavern one rainy afternoon on Spadina Avenue in Toronto, autumn of 1983. The newspaper would compare us as fervent Zionists in a positive light -- he, the "lionesque" one, in the late September of his life, and me with my "lusty, youthful enthusiasm" -- their comment. My mum was very proud.

I fell in love with Irving on the spot. He revved my engines and got my juices flowing. I did not read my selections that rainy afternoon -- I channeled them from a deep, unseen place. The joint went crazy. But I wasn't in the moment. I needed to please Irving. I picked up the guitar and sang to him from the stage. An old jazz classic. He giggled, piercing me with those fiery eyes of pure coal. He just made you want to deliver your best stuff. He made you get all crazy. You could not be near him and not be forever altered by him. He had a euphoric toxicity that got into your bloodstream and went straight to your head. Opium? Heroin? The stuff of amateurs. Irving was the real deal. Even as an old man he was like a young Brando. I went home and wrote a poem about him. I gave it to him a year later, with trembling hands:

A Message for Mr. Layton

it was on an entirely gruelling afternoon

and there sat I

suffering the waste of words

and entire lack of

theatrics and dimension

out of the mouths of the angry

and the confused

masked in the guise

of the Poet.

it were as if I was being taught to speed read out loud.

but then

but then

but then

you turned every crooked plank

of the ghastly, dim space

into a lyric

you painted pictures

with your eloquent tongue

just five little words

held still the clock

my heart pushed heavily

against my female breast

do you know how beautiful you are?

does that really matter?

Nov. 1, 1983, 10 a.m.

(c) Lynda Marks

He is still in my blood. Thank you, Irving. Baruch Dayan Emet.

posted by Lynda Marks Kraar at 8:14 P

Public vs Private Layton, recruiting.com, Jan 10 06

http://www.recruiting.com/recruiting/candidates/
Public Life And Personal Success
January 10, 2006

Canadian Poet, Irving Layton Dies

Last week, Irving Layton died at the age of 93. He was one of Canada's greatest poets. He'd won the Order of Canada and had been nominated for a Nobel Prize.

I liked him in his public role and would agree that he was a great Canadian. But great person, yes and no. He was married five times and, in 1999, his son wrote a highly critical portrait.

Elspeth Cameron also wrote a profile that he didn't like and he sent her five hundred hate letters. (He was already older by then, however, and perhaps this level of crankiness was a hint of the coming deterioration of his mind).

I thought about this because our job is to find people who can be successful in public roles. But that might have little positive relation to their level of private success.

Layton liked women, language and argument and turned these tastes into a great public life. But they could not be fit into a normal personal life.

And, indeed, we might prefer people whose lives are similarly askew. For it's possible that superstar candidates are like autistic savants. They have a some special powers that crowd out everything else.

Canadian Headhunter

Herman Mlunga Mbongo Hoax, blog entry, Jan 13 06

http://www.livejournal.com/users/choriamb/468847.html
Choriamb: Poetry News and Reviews Poetry Matters
Herman Mlunga Mbongo makes the list of Top Ten Literary Hoaxes
Posted January 13, 2006

The Top Ten Literary Hoaxes

1 of the most amusing:

"Disguised as original work by unknown amateurs, [Crad] Kilodney submitted poetry and short stories by famous CanLit figures to various publishers and literary contests. All the work was rejected. An editor at Montreal’s Vehicule Press, which received a collection of Irving Layton poems written under the name Herman Mlunga Mbongo, did send a nice rejection letter, noting, 'Irving Layton, to whom I showed your manuscript, was as delighted as I was to see how useful his poems still are.'"

Sound Bites by Layton, blog entry, Jan 14 06

http://shootingpoets.blogspot.com/2006/01/sound-bites-by-layton.html
Sound Bites by Layton
Posted Jan 14, 2006


IRVING LAYTON ON POETS

"The poet is someone who can't help mythologizing his experiences. He exaggerates, distorts, fictionalizes. In him the will-to-power takes the form of investing even the trifling and banal with symbolic significance. But the poet is also someone who makes lucky things happen, for his life is a destiny or a destination."

("Foreword," The Gucci Bag, 1983)


IRVING LAYTON ON POETRY AS A VOCATION

"I now see there is no way for the poet to avoid misunderstanding, even abuse, when he follows his prophetic vocation to lead his fellow men towards sanity and light. If he offers his hand in friendship and love, he must expect someone will try to chop it off at the shoulder. ... A poet is someone who has a strong sense of self and feels his life to be meaningful."

("Foreword," Collected Poems, 1965)


IRVING LAYTON ON HIMSELF

"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."

("Foreword," Droppings from Heaven, 1979)

Great Giant of the Human Spirit and Poem for Irving

Arthur Joyce said...

And so another great giant of the human spirit passes from this age of mediocrity and conformity. We will need his words now more than ever.
I was privileged to see Layton perform in Edmonton in November, 1985. The effect of his presence literally filled up the room, even though my then-wife and I were in one of the back rows. When he read the poem to his sister, 'Senile, My Sister Sings', there wasn't a dry eye in the house. When we met him afterwards for booksignings, he was warm and extremely approachable. I couldn't believe he was 74--he seemed more like 44.
Today I have Layton to thank for encouraging me to persist as a poet despite poetry's deepening marginalization in a media-saturated culture. The poem below was written for him while he was in hospital, a sad shadow of his towering former self. The tocsin, or bell ringing out in a public square calling us to worship or sound an alarm, to me is a fitting metaphor for this great poet. Rage on, Irving, wherever you are now...

Töcsin
—for Irving Layton
1912-2006

O, sick pecular joy
the Universe has in reminding you
just who’s boss
in the Big Picture,
the pathetic, drunken
illusion
of omnipotence
in a young body.

I wonder—
did some part of you
tire, suddenly retreat,
bone-weary
of sounding the töcsin
of humanity’s bestial nature?
(With apologies, of course,
to the beasts.)

Yet somehow
through it all—“a prophet
and the descendant
of prophets,”
holding a beacon
above the carnage—hoping
to lead someone
toward sanity
and light.

And now to think of you
in a hospital ward
fighting your way back
from the blow
that came out of the dark
and left white Mack truck stars
everywhere you look.

Blaze, blaze your glare
through hypnotic fog
rail and rant and praise again
sing and blare and shine again
in your vainglorious sun
O man with the carpet
of burning hair on his chest,

your head of lover’s fleece
crackling in the wind,
your eyes lancet stars
pointed at the sky
and daring down the cosmos
even as the slaughtering blade
is raised

©2004 Arthur Joyce