A Red Carpet for the Sun: the life of Irving Layton


Montreal poet Irving Layton, born Israel Lazarovitch was for decades one of the most remarkable personalities on the Canadian literary scene. A brilliant and dedicated teacher, a pioneer of modernism in Canadian poetry, author of over 30 books of verse, he was notorious for his very public life.

But who was he and where did he come from? Layton spent his childhood years in a poor, crowded immigrant household in Montreal's Yiddish-speaking neighbourhood, where his father was in Layton's words, ''a shadow on the wall'' communing only with his God, and his mother, a formidable presence who held the family together. Irving's older brother Hyman is outspoken and unforgiving in his assessment of a family that cared little for the remarkable child in their midst.

In the 40's and 50's, the resourceful and determined Layton supported himself with a variety of teaching jobs and struggled along with a small group of likeminded spirits, to lay the foundations for modern Canadian literature.

The big breakthrough came with the publication of A Red Carpet for the Sun and Layton's mastery of the new medium of television.

Former students make it clear what a remarkable odyssey it was and the three surviving women in Layton's life testify to the remarkable force of his personality