Monday, November 02, 2009

Meeting Irving Layton by Dean J Baker

Meeting Irving Layton
by Dean J Baker
November 1, 2009

A brief

I’d run out the front door of my home, with my father chasing me, obviously angry.
It was a snowy day, late afternoon, and I was the caricature of the poet, lazing around, reading, and writing, without a job, at 20.
I did have the presence of mind to grab my winter coat and scarf as I flew towards the bus stop, without any intention of returning that day, headed I knew, for my cement oasis of downtown.
More than likely my prehensile brain had it all planned.
Too bad it hadn’t planned on having more than 4 transit tokens, and $1.25 in my pocket.

I didn’t have any paper, or a pen either, with me. I walked the streets, taking in the shoppers, the goods, seeing into the restaurants since there was a complete lack of cafes existing in what passed for a main street in downtown Toronto at the time.

I’d been planning on meeting Irving Layton ever since I found that, to my amazement, he was not only alive and existing in society, rather than simply vacationing in Mexico as he did every year, or coming out of some misplaced hermitry, but taught at York University – in Toronto!

I didn’t have to settle for seeing him on the occasional Pierre Berton show, his articulation and passion a thing of surprising and sustained beauty. He wasn’t another dead English poet to be studied from afar, in a book, to contrive dreams of some fantastic poesy as if written on a Grecian urn.

Considering briefly my own high school teachers who between failing me at almost every grade, denouncing my words in essays for class that they said did not exist – only I knew they did, being an avid reader of the dictionary at various times – and asking to borrow my rare poetry books, such as Petrarch, I wondered for a moment at the disparity between those who taught Poetry, and the poets themselves.

I did briefly consider what I might say to Mr. Layton, what he might say, or not, and simply felt that I had to meet this great poet whose words had lit a spark in me the first time I came across them in an English class in high school.
My mind went no further than both the idea of actually meeting a published great poet, and being in his presence, and absent were any thoughts of what might transpire.

It would turn out to be an event whose importance would influence me forever.

More to come….

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