Irving Layton

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The thing could barely stand. Yet taken
from his mother and the barn smells
he still impressed with his pride,
with the promise of sovereignity in the way
his head moved to take us in.
The fierce sunlight tugging the maize from the ground
liked at his shapely flanks.
He was too young for all that pride.
I thought of the deposed Richard II.

“No money in bull calves,” Freeman had said.
The visiting clergyman rubbed the nostrils
now snuffing pathetically at the windless day.
“A pity,” he sighed.
My gaze slipped off his hat toward the empty sky
that circled over the black knot of men,
over us and the calf waiting for the first blow.

Struck,
the bull calf drew in his thin forelegs
as if gathering strength for a mad rush…
tottered…raised his darkening eyes to us,
and I saw we were at the far end
of his frightened look, growing smaller and smaller
till we were only the ponderous mallet
that flicked his bleeding ear
and pushed him over on his side, stiffly,
like a block of wood.

Below the hill’s crest
the river snuffled on the improvised beach.
We dug a deep pit and threw the dead calf into it.
It made a wet sound, a sepulchral gurgle,
as the warm sides bulged and flattened.
Settled, the bull calf lay as if asleep,
one foreleg over the other,
bereft of pride and so beautiful now,
without movement, perfectly still in the cool pit,
I turned away and wept.

©Irving Layton

The economy of language, the spirit of truth; sociology, philosophy: the distillation of experiences reflected, and altered, in one brief poem – that’s the magic of poetry, and a great poet.
Irving Layton is a poet everyone should read, and hear reading his own work.  http://irvinglayton.ca/Recordings/index.html

Irving Layton was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature, twice. He was friend and mentor to Leonard Cohen. Leonard called him “Canada’s greatest poet.”

Looked up to by Allen Ginsberg, Williams Carlos WilliamsMichael Hamburger, and many other fine and great writers for decades.

Disclosure: Irving was my friend for decades. He once said of my very early writing, ” Dean is a combination of thought and torment that has made him write more than a baker’s dozen of fine poems.. he might produce a collection that could astound us all.” And he did not play favourites.

my books http://www.amazon.com/Dean-J.-Baker/e/B00IC6PGQM

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The Truth In Certain Poetry – A.M.Klein, Irving Layton, Joe Rosenblatt, Yehuda Amichai, Margaret Atwood, Gwen MacEwen, Louise Bogan….

DarkEarth

There is a certain elegiac clarity and a dignity of purpose in certain poems, and poets possessed of a forthright manner and a lack of the contrived innuendoes that construct an approach to poetry or a facsimile of a poem.

C.P.Cavafy, Yeats, George Herbert, John Donne. A lot of the work of Gwendolyn MacEwen, and in the Greek writers she tended to enthuse over, for instance Yannis Ritsos, whom I met at her apartment one time. Also, a contemporary of hers, Irving Layton, much admired himself by Allen Ginsberg, William Carlos Williams, and an endless procession of very unique writers, not the least of which was Leonard Cohen who called LaytonCanada’s greatest poet”(and definitely not only because he was nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1981).
That elegiac quality exists in Raymond Souster, F.R. Scott, John Newlove.
Louise Bogan’s The Blue Estuaries. Almost anything by Mark Strand.
George Seferis‘ work certainly.

The occasion for saying this is I’ve been re-reading Yehuda Amichai, and reading through the works of C.K. Williams. Not that these stand alone, but they stand singularly. I’d say I first encountered such qualities in the works of A.M. Klein. Another true, but rarely acknowledged master.
And you can find these qualities in certain poems, observations of Joe Rosenblatt.

The stillness encountered, the sense of profundity, the ‘whack’ that C.K. Williams speaks of in his poem of the same title: that sudden, yet familiar clarity that sweeps clean and leaves you more of your true self than you’d ever been up to that point.
Even the ringing of a certain bell, as at the beginning of ‘Starting Over’ by John Lennon.

Every writer, poet, songwriter, recognizes it when it occurs. But the scarce rarity of it inhabiting simple forthright lines with a certain regularity is the prize.

The work may seem oddly non-poetic when first encountered, or alternatively, exactly what you might expect. Preceded by distant rhythms and certain algebraic formulations of words, but it always come to that moment, this time, these words.

That is poetry: music, and song integrated with the silences and rhythms necessary to establish a poem in the world that exists like a very unique, and distinct world. Not separate, but so far inclusive the boundaries are not only contained but delineated without any injury to the work.

Discovering such as these, you can feel without the false discussions of literati, academics, or others useless opinions, the absolute necessity for poetry.

Making mention in the introduction to Poems, by Yehuda Amichai, is Michael Hamburger who very graciously himself lived the words he’d put to paper, in his translations as well, whether discussing Isaac Singer (present at the time), Irving Layton (for whom I’d said I’d get Singer’s autograph), Margaret Atwood, or the latest reader at a few literary festivals we talked about.

To read these poems, therefore, is to both be reminded of things one has tended to forget and to discover things that one has never known.” – Michael Hamburger
And lest it be taken that knowing, in regards to literature, scripture, history and the world are distant and apart from a poet’s life, know that Yehuda Amichai served in two wars, and while experienced in the truest sense found no exclusivity in certainties of any faith, or outlook.
You would find a semblance with very distinct differences in the works of Paul Celan.
A true view of being Israeli therefore, as well as a great awareness of European recall while standing firm in the very alive knowledge of the Kings and Prophets of his history in an individualistic manner likely disdained by nationalists and those against anything but a blanket stance on history and contemporaneity.

This makes for a great poet. And great are the poets also mentioned here whose work is a statement against any assumptions by virtue of its uniqueness and craft.

©Dean J. Baker

**note: click on the names for links to their work

Latest book: https://deanjbaker.wordpress.com/latest-book-of-poems-in-riparian-fields/

#poetry #literature #MarkStrand #HenryMiller #AllenGinsberg, etc. Poetry & How It Gets That Way

Poetry has been an essential art in history and is in danger of being trivialized into extinction.
Several seminal events in recent literary history are detailed in illustrating how poetry is not merely an adjunct to history and culture but can elucidate and influence those same events and deeds.

buy one, I’ll buy the coffee – Dark Earth: great reviews!

DarkEarthPrint <– Ebook<– you deserve it
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What Literature Means In Canada

 

 

 

 

 

For the longest time Alice Munro slips
under a steady but constant radar, her
great works a secret pleasure, while Harpo
Marx’s secret sister drones on about
the subjugation of women, men’s inadequacy –
a real peg in the hole of cuckoo theories,
while one that basically began the popularity
of Canadian Literature couldn’t get a Canada
Council grant from the committee of consensus,
though he taught Cohen, was worshipped
by Allen Ginsberg, looked towards
by W.C. Williams and his little red wagon/wheelbarrow,
honored in the USA, by Italy, betrayed
by the small bitch who claimed to do his
autobiography, another self-promoting deceiver
And Margaret L. drank a bottle away, as
another poet Egypt-bent could not get enough
food, passing away from a blown up kidney
Purdy almost included me in an early 70’s anthology,
a “sad mistake” not doing so he stated, while
my cards and letters from Musgrave, Acorn,
Newlove, MacEwen, and dozens of letters
from Layton, signed books from Ginsberg “to
a great poet” get tossed from storage
into garbage bags for the sake of less than
a thousand dollars – an entirety of literary
history abandoned and lost, almost another tradition

©Dean J. Baker

-excerpt from a published book

The books _——–>http://www.amazon.com/Dean-J.-Baker/e/B00IC6PGQM

https://deanjbaker.wordpress.com/look-poetry-how-it-gets-that-way-3-99/
DarkEarthTake some time to read these reviews…. ebook Dark Earth

print Dark Earth

“….Rabelais and Hieronymus Bosch look out of dark chinks in these poems… “

“..never have I experienced poems in this form, they get under your skin, and occupy your entire being . His mastery of putting the English language to work for him, to bring to life his thoughts and what he wants to project is amazing.”

“You can certainly become a poetry lover by reading Dark Earth..”

“Having read Dark Earth by Dean J Baker my first reaction is WOW. This was written for me. His poetry speaks to me deep down in my soul. The style of writing then the naming of the poems is so on target. A must read for poetry lovers AND all who just love to read.”

“That, my friends, in one succinct movement is the Grotesque Sublime: “the posthumous twitching / of cynics en masse”. ….Rabelais and Hieronymus Bosch look out of dark chinks in these poems… instead of Emerson’s “Whim” above Dean’s lintel we might assume “Melancholy” resides here… that dark brooding that laughs below, and rises through the bones to jerk you awake from your too lazy sleep of existence.”

https://kindlebooksbydeanjbaker.wordpress.com/2015/05/27/review-of-dark-earth-by-dean-j-baker/

©Dean J. Baker

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