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Great Authors of Our Time - Irving Layton
by Diana Kuprel

Irving Layton (Israel Lazarovitch) was born in Romania in 1912. The following year, he emigrated with his family to Canada. After graduating from Macdonald College and McGill University, he began his long and celebrated teaching career at Herzaliah Junior High School, before going on to lecture at Sir George Williams University and, from 1969 to 1978, at Toronto's York University. A founding member of the seminal Canadian literary magazines, First Statement and Northern Review, Layton also established close editorial ties with, and was a frequent contributor to, influential publications like Origin, Contact, and CIV/n. He is an extremely popular reader, and has recited his poetry at colleges, universities, and conferences in the U.S., Italy, Korea, Greece, and Great Britain. He has been awarded many writer-in-residence tenures across Canada, a Governor General's Award, an Order of Canada, and honorary degrees from Bishop's University and Concordia. He was nominated twice for the Nobel Prize.

Layton has published close to forty books of poetry. Most notable among them are In the Midst of My Fever (1954), The Cold Green Element (1955), The Bull Calf and Other Poems (1956), The Improved Binoculars (1956), A Red Carpet for the Sun (1959), Collected Poems (1965), The Selected Poems of Irving Layton (1977), and A Wild Peculiar Joy (1989). There have been two biographies: Elspeth Cameron's highly controversial Irving Layton: A Portrait and Francis Mansbridge's Irving Layton: God's Recording Angel. Layton himself has published a memoir, Waiting for the Messiah. His prose writings have been collected in Engagements, and his voluminous correspondence has resulted in Gooseberries: The Selected Letters of Irving Layton, An Unlikely Affair: The Irving Layton-Dorothy Rath Correspondence, and Irving Layton and Robert Creeley: The Complete Correspondence. His most recent collection is Fornalutx, published by McGill-Queen's in 1992. His poetry has been translated into Greek, Spanish, Romanian, Polish, Croatian, Swedish, Italian, and Korean.

Layton currently resides in Montreal where, in Elspeth Cameron's words, "as his final prank he will pole-vault right over his grave." 


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