Remembering Canadian poet Irving Layton, a century after his birth

“For me, that is what literature is all about, what poetry is all about: to waken people’s consciousnesses, to make them aware of the dark abysses in their own souls.”

It’s been more than six years since Irving Layton passed away at the age of 93. As the Toronto Star‘s Martin Knelman noted on Tuesday, Layton asked in his will that his grave site go unmarked. Next week, though, marks the centenary of Layton’s birth on March 12, 1912, in Romania.

The country he moved to as an infant won’t let that occasion go unmarked. To celebrate Layton’s life, and the contributions he made to Canadian poetry, events are taking place across the country next week, including celebrations in:

…And many more. See if there’s one happening closer to you here.

Besides producing great poetry and mentoring the likes of Leonard Cohen and Al Purdy, Layton also spoke his mind, just as boldly as he wrote. In the video above, watch him talk about Toronto, “a place for acquaintances…but not for friendships”; Montreal, where he says he had a carefully cultivated “slew of enemies” who “help define his literary personality”; why he stayed in Canada instead of moving to the U.S., as some of his peers did; and the power of poetry and literature to change us as individuals and as a society. What a guy.

Posted on March 8, 2012 at 9:00 am by editor · · Tagged with: , , , , ,

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