Irving Layton Residence
1913 - 1924
245 Boul. de Maisonneuve E.
(Traduction à venir)
Israel Pincu Lazarovitch, later the world-famous modernist Canadian poet Irving Layton, was born in 1912 in a small town in Romania. His family moved the next year to the heart of the Jewish neighbourhood in downtown Montreal.
In 1926, Layton entered Baron Byng High School, where his life was transformed by his introduction to the works of Shakespeare, Wordsworth, and Austen, among many others. His increasing involvement with the Young People’s Socialist League led to his expulsion in 1930. Shortly thereafter Layton was blacklisted due to his left-wing political views, and barred entry to the United States for nearly two decades. He studied agriculture at McGill University and was known around campus for his anti-bourgeois attitude and his increasing dedication to poetry and the life of the poet.
After short stints in New York, Halifax, and the Canadian army, Layton settled down in Montreal, and entered the publishing world as partner to his friend and fellow Montreal poet, Louis Dudek. Together with John Sutherland, they created First Statement, a literary magazine and press. The new, younger poets set themselves up as a challenge to older Canadian writers like Northrop Frye, who habitually looked back to England for cues on what poetry should mean and what poets should do. Layton, Dudek, and their peers, on the other hand, believed Canadian poets should forge their own path forward, and above all should represent and comment on the social realities of Canadian life in the middle of the twentieth century.
After World War II, Layton earned a master’s degree in political science, and began teaching humanities at Herzliah High School, where he taught Irwin Cotler and many others. In the 1950s, Layton gradually earned first national and then international renown as a poet, particularly with the publication in 1958 of A Red Carpet in the Sun and in 1974 of The Pole-Vaulter, the latter of which revealed the poet’s preoccupation with the Holocaust and what it represents. In 1982 Layton was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature, but lost to Gabriel Garcia Marquez. After having spent the 1970s writing and teaching in Toronto, Layton returned to Montreal in the early 1980s. He continually published until being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 1995. Layton died in 2006 having risen to the height of international literary renown, and pioneering the creation of a distinctly modern Canadian poetry.
Compiled by Richard Kreitner
Irving Layton Website
"Biography". Irving Layton Website. Web. 08 November 2010.
Cameron, Elspeth. Irving Layton, A Portrait. Toronto: Stoddart, 1985.
Layton, Irving. A Wild Peculiar Joy: Selected Poems, 1945-1982. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1982.
Layton, Irving. Waiting for the Messiah: A Memoir. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1985.
Mansbridge, Francis. Irving Layton: God’s Recording Angel. Toronto: ECW Press, 1985.
*Images courtesy of the Canadian Jewish Congress Charities Committee National Archives, the Jewish Public Library Archives, the Library and Archives Canada, and Max Layton.