Layton, Irving 1912–2006

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Layton, Irving 1912–2006

(Irving Peter Layton)

OBITUARY NOTICE—See index for CA sketch: Born March 12, 1912, in Neamtz, Romania; died of Alzheimer's disease, January 4, 2006, in Montréal, Quebec, Canada. Educator and author. Layton was one of Canada's most prominent poets and authors and was known for his often passionate, angry, and sometimes erotic verses. Born Israel Lazarovitch to a Jewish family living in Romania, he was brought to Canada with his parents in 1913. They settled in Montréal, and Layton, who later changed his name legally, completed a bachelor's degree in agriculture from McDonald College in 1939. When Canada entered World War II, he joined the Canadian Army as a lieutenant. After the war, he returned to school and finished a master's in economics and political science at McGill University in 1946. Over the next decades, Layton pursued dual careers as an educator and poet. He was a lecturer at the Jewish Public Library in Montréal from 1943 to 1958, and a high school teacher in Mon-tréal from 1945 to 1960. He also lectured at Sir George Williams University until 1965, and was a poet in residence there through the late 1960s. From 1970 through 1978, Layton was a professor of English literature at York University in Toronto. He also held various poet-and writer-in-residence positions at various universities, including the University of Ottawa and Concordia University. Layton began publishing collections of his verses in 1945, with the release of Here and Now. Over the next few years he became known for what were then considered bawdy and gritty verses. His purpose, the poet would declare, was to shock Canadians out of their complacency with life. Layton's ego about his writing accomplishments sometimes overshadowed his work, and he declared himself on several occasions to be just as accomplished a writer as Wordsworth or Shakespeare. Though few literary critics would place him in that high a category, many would come to agree that Layton was one of Canada's best poets, with some even declaring him a great artist. An incredibly prolific writer, he would produce over fifty verse collections over the years, as well as several nonfiction books and a number of edited works. He earned Canada's Governor-General's Award in 1959 for A Red Carpet for the Sun, a Prix Litteraire de Quebec in 1963 for Balls for a One-Armed Juggler, and a Life Achievement Award from the Encyclopedia Britannica in 1978. Also nominated for a Nobel Prize in 1982, Lay-ton's highest honor came when he was appointed to the Order of Canada in 1976.



Contemporary Poets, 7th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 2001.


Los Angeles Times, January 14, 2006, p. B15.

New York Times, January 13, 2006, p. A21.

Times (London, England), February 16, 2006, p. 67.

Washington Post, January 9, 2006, p. B5.