Irving Layton

Irving Layton

About Irving Layton

Irving Layton (born March 12, 1912 in Târgu Neam?, Romania, and died January 4, 2006, in Montréal) was a Romanian-born Canadian poet and author. In his works, he deals with Jewish-Canadian experiences. Layton's family immigrated to Canada in 1913. He studied first at the Macdonald Campus, Quebec, (B.Sc., 1939) and then at McGill University (M.A., 1946). During World War II, he served in the Royal Canadian Air Force. From 1945 to 1960, he worked as a teacher and university lecturer in Montreal. From 1970 to 1978, he was Professor of Literature at York University in Toronto.
Lyrical and romantic in tone, Layton's poems are classical in form. His early works Here And Now (1945) and Now Is The Place (1948) contain descriptive poetry. In 'In the Midst of My Fever' (1954), and The Cold Green Element (1955), he expresses his hatred of the bourgeoisie and his critical spirit towards politics, for which he was well known in artistic circles. He noticed that his real interest was in poetry, and decided to pursue a career as a poet and became friends with young contemporary poets such as the Canadian John Sutherland, Raymond Souster and Louis Dudek. During the 1940s, Layton and his fellow poets rejected the previous generation of writers: their efforts helped to set the tone for the post-war generation of poets in Canada. Their main idea was to create an essentially Canadian style, far from the English style, to reflect the social realities of the time. He believed that poets should trouble and disturb their readers. He later turned from social satire to concern for the human condition.
Layton earned a reputation as a terrific orator on CBC's English network by debating on Fighting Words broadcast. The publication of A Red Carpet For The Sun in 1959 gave him a national reputation, while the many books of poetry that followed gave him an international reputation. Among many of his awards received during his career is the Governor General's Award for A Red Carpet for the Sun, and in 1976 he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada. He was the first non-Italian to be awarded a Petrarch Award, an Italian prize to recognize the talent of a poet.
Irving Layton was a major influence on the early poetry of Leonard Cohen. Both were friends. Leonard Cohen once said of him, "I taught him how to dress, and he taught me how to live forever."
Friends cared for Layton after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. He died at the Maimonides Geriatric Center in Montreal at the age of 93 on January 4, 2006.

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