Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

From the beginning of his career as a poet, Layton has defined himself as anti-intellectual, although the profusion of literary, historical, philosophical, and mythological allusion in his poetry speaks to the enormous range of his reading and thinking and belies the anti-intellectual stance he takes. According to critic Eli Mandel, Layton’s is “a poetry of profound social and personal concern.Layton belongs with the sort of writer (and artist) [George Bernard] Shaw was prepared to speak of as poet-prophet.” In the eloquent “Foreword” to his 1959 collection A Red Carpet for the Sun, in which “Golfers” also appears, Layton voices his central concerns, laying out the issues he takes up so aggressively in his poetry. Those concerns are ego-and life-centered; poetry is the artistic medium through which he addresses them:The free individual—independent and gay—is farther from realization than he ever was. Still, in a world where corruption is the norm and enslavement universal, all art celebrates him, prepares the way for his coming.Poetry, by giving dignity and utterance to our distress, enables us to hope, makes compassion reasonable.

“Golfers,” though ultimately too slight a poem to sustain the weight of Layton’s vociferous disapproval, does embody what Mandel cites as Layton’s central themes: “[T]he nature of the creative process,and the social implications of both human perversity and creativity.But beyond,is the...

(The entire section is 523 words.)