Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Irving Layton

Rosemary Sullivan, a friend from Honors English at McGill, was dating the poet Doug Beardsley, and Rosemary proudfully showed me an elaborately inscribed copy of Irving Layton’s Collected Poems. Layton dominated the Canadian literary landscape when I arrived in Montreal. I was excited merely to meet, for instance, one of the many people with whom Layton carried on public controversy. I never did meet Layton. But when I started Unmuzzled OX in New York and published Robert Creeley, one of Layton’s American champions, I did manage to start a small correspondence with Layton and finally publish him. He died January 4. http://www.irvinglayton.com/ I am tickled by his book Balls for a one-armed juggler. I published this poem in Unmuzzled OX:


When I was mad
about her
I bought her daubs
-money on the barrel:
she wouldn’t have it
any other way--
took her to expensive restaurants
movies and plays
lit up her body
with flowers and jewels
and with fever
of an aging lover
threw in a summer’s idle
on the Rivera

You, Luke, hanged yourself
so that she could see
your blue tongue
sticking out at her
when she found you

Layton discovered the poet, novelist and songwriter Leonard Cohen. “I taught him how to dress,” said Cohen, “and he taught me how to live forever.”


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