Tuesday, July 17, 2007

irving layton, the bitterest middle-class professor to ever hate middle-class professors

Selected Poems from 15 Canadian Poets x3
by Irving Layton, edited by Gary Geddes

Look, the Lambs Are All Around Us!

Your figure, love,
curves itself
into a man's memory;
or to put it the way
a junior prof
at Mount Allison might,
Helen with her thick
absconding limbs
about the waist
of Paris
did no better.

Hell, my back's sunburnt
from so much love-making
in the open-air.
The Primate (somebody
made a monkey of him)
and the Sanhedrin
(long on the beard, short
on the brain)
send envoys to say
they don't approve.
You never see them, love.
You toss me in the air
with such abandon,
they take to their heels and run.
I tell you
each kiss of yours
is like a blow on the head!

What luck, what luck to be loved
by the one girl
in this Presbyterian
country
who knows how to give
a man pleasure.

Oh good. Irving Layton's here engaging in his most favourite pastime of academia-bashing. I basically hate Irving Layton on a level so deeply within my subconscious that the very mention of his name causes my gorge to rise. Okay, maybe nothing that bad, but I just find him so nauseatingly hypocritical that it's almost impossible for me to read his poetry. I'm at the point where I actually have to make a running start towards the book and hold on for dear life. Any excuse to be distracted away from Layton I take gladly. I've never admitted my hatred for him in a class as to dismiss Layton in an English classroom in a Canadian graduate school seems to be about the equivalent of walking up and down the bible belt yelling, "God loves gays! God is a woman! God is black! God approves of interracial marriages! God believes in evolution!"

The fact is, Layton was the world's most pompous hypocrite. He supposedly loathed academia and the middle classes, and resented the academization of Canadian poetry (in the above poem, note the image in the first stanza of the "junior prof / at Mount Allison" muddying a poetic image). Yet he was perfectly content to belly up to the trough at several Canadian universities, accepting comfortably middle class positions as a professor of English at York, Concordia, and other painfully bourgeois institutions. Oh dear, however did the poor flower survive? In "The Fertile Muck," he claims, "I have noticed / how my irregular footprint horrifies them," claiming for himself some kind of privileged outsider status, when really he was the beloved poet of academia and the popular public. He was about as much of an outsider as our other national hot-house orchid, David Adams Richards, in a Toronto cocktail party. Oh wait! Not an outsider at all.

He resented Canada and the puritanical roots of this country (see the last stanza in the above poem), yet never left here. I would have been okay with him bailing.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

well hey, not like you can do much about it, as a writer you ARE addressing the elite (the literate, educated) so... when you are writing for the elite, and the elite kinda like ya, might as well take advantage of the situation? and honestly, not much of a solution to propose that anyone who doesn't agree with Canada just get right up and leave it. You are severely bordering on immigrant-hating "redneck" ideology hun, might wanna tone it down there...on the other hand, I do agree that Layton is a pompous bastard, but hey, can't get any worse than Pound I guess?