Sunday, January 08, 2006

Irving Layton 1912 - 2006
(Photo by Sheldon Grimson)

I did a poetry reading with Canadian poet laureate Irving Layton at Grossman's Tavern one rainy afternoon on Spadina Avenue in Toronto, autumn of 1983. The newspaper would compare us as fervent Zionists in a positive light -- he, the "lionesque" one, in the late September of his life, and me with my "lusty, youthful enthusiasm" -- their comment. My mum was very proud.

I fell in love with Irving on the spot. He revved my engines and got my juices flowing. I did not read my selections that rainy afternoon -- I channeled them from a deep, unseen place. The joint went crazy. But I wasn't in the moment. I needed to please Irving. I picked up the guitar and sang to him from the stage. An old jazz classic. He giggled, piercing me with those fiery eyes of pure coal. He just made you want to deliver your best stuff. He made you get all crazy. You could not be near him and not be forever altered by him. He had a euphoric toxicity that got into your bloodstream and went straight to your head. Opium? Heroin? The stuff of amateurs. Irving was the real deal. Even as an old man he was like a young Brando. I went home and wrote a poem about him. I gave it to him a year later, with trembling hands:

A Message for Mr. Layton

it was on an entirely gruelling afternoon

and there sat I

suffering the waste of words

and entire lack of

theatrics and dimension

out of the mouths of the angry

and the confused

masked in the guise

of the Poet.

it were as if I was being taught to speed read out loud.

but then

but then

but then

you turned every crooked plank

of the ghastly, dim space

into a lyric

you painted pictures

with your eloquent tongue

just five little words

held still the clock

my heart pushed heavily

against my female breast

do you know how beautiful you are?

does that really matter?

Nov. 1, 1983, 10 a.m.

(c) Lynda Marks

He is still in my blood. Thank you, Irving. Baruch Dayan Emet.


1 comment:

Tara Gowland said...

Wow - what an incredible story! I posted it on my blog http://irvinglayton.blogspot.com/ called Irving Remembered. (it is listed under Fiery Eyes of Pure Coal)

Thanks!

Tara