Irving Peter Layton was born Israel Pincu Lazarovitch in Tîrgu Neam, Romania, in 1912 and moved at the age of one with his family to Montreal, Canada. He graduated from Baron Byng High School, which the Canadian novelist Mordecai Richler also attended. In the early 1930’s, Layton associated with many of Montreal’s disaffected left-wing intellectuals whose Marxist ideology helped shape the political and social attitudes of his early poetry and prose. Later in the decade, he attended Macdonald College, graduating with a bachelor of science degree. In 1938, he married Faye Lynch. After a brief stint in the Canadian Army during 1942-1943, he attended McGill University in Montreal, where he received an M.A. in economics and political science in 1946.
For the next two decades, Layton earned his living teaching at Montreal high schools and at Sir George Williams University (now Concordia University). During this time, he became a member of a group of young poets in Montreal that included Louis Dudek and John Sutherland, who cofounded and edited First Statement, a periodical influential in the promotion of modern poetry in Canada. In 1945, Layton’s first work of poetry, Here and Now, appeared. Throughout his early career, he wrote and published a new collection each year, largely at his own expense; however, his work remained generally unrecognized. In 1948, he divorced his first wife and married Sutherland’s sister Betty, with whom he had a son and daughter. In the next decade, he began an extensive correspondence with the American poet Robert Creeley; this dialogue helped Layton formulate many of...
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