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UBC Theses and Dissertations

A study of the poetry of Irving Layton Mayne, Seymour 1972

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A STUDY OF THE POETRY OF IRVING LAYTON by SEYMOUR MAYNE B.A., Mc G i l l University, 1965 M.A., University of B r i t i s h Columbia, 1966 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY i n the Department of English We accept this thesis as conforming to the required standard THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA A p r i l , 19 72 In p r e s e n t i n g t h i s t h e s i s i n p a r t i a l f u l f i l m e n t o f the requirements f o r an advanced degree a t the U n i v e r s i t y o f B r i t i s h Columbia, I agree t h a t the L i b r a r y s h a l l make i t f r e e l y a v a i l a b l e f o r r e f e r e n c e and study. I f u r t h e r agree t h a t p e r m i s s i o n f o r e x t e n s i v e c o p y i n g of t h i s t h e s i s f o r s c h o l a r l y purposes may be granted by the Head o f my Department or by h i s r e p r e s e n t a t i v e s . I t i s understood t h a t c o p y i n g or p u b l i c a t i o n o f t h i s t h e s i s f o r f i n a n c i a l g a i n s h a l l not be allowed without my w r i t t e n p e r m i s s i o n . Department o f The U n i v e r s i t y o f B r i t i s h Columbia Vancouver 8, Canada ABSTRACT This d i s s e r t a t i o n focuses on the phases of Irving Layton's growth and development as a poet, and the patterns of h i s v i s i o n . These phases are e i g h t f o l d : the early poetry of the t h i r t i e s ; the poetry of the f o r t i e s and Layton's involvement with F i r s t Statement and Northern Review; the poetry of the early f i f t i e s and h i s asso c i a t i o n with Contact Press; the two phases of s a t i r i c a l and meditative poetry of the intensive middle f i f t i e s ; the poetry and prefaces of the l a t e f i f t i e s and the consolidation of h i s .body of work; and the writings of the two phases of the early and l a t e s i x t i e s . Each phase corresponds to a development i n h i s poetry and h i s involvement with the Canadian l i t e r a r y community. The pattern of p u b l i c a t i o n i s closest to the r e a l order of h i s development; the chronology reveals the nature of Layton's growth. The poetry of the t h i r t i e s and f o r t i e s contained the seeds of h i s l a t e r development and pointed to the d i r e c t i o n s he was to take. At these early phases he achieved some degree of d e f i n i t i o n which was to grow and widen rather than transform i t s e l f r a d i c a l l y from book to book. The process of d e f i n i t i o n and r e d e f i n i t i o n , as revealed by th i s close study of h i s poems and h i s books, provides for the tension i n h i s poetic growth. The poems and books, i n t h e i r arrangements as w e l l , i n d i c a t e Layton's a r t i s t i c intentions. They were also means i i f o r reshaping his own self-image as poet, and the device of the persona of the poet f i g u r e . The search and movement of Layton's poetics revolve around the self-image and persona of the poet. The image of the poet f i g u r e r e f l e c t s i t s e l f i n i t s varied aspects both i n Layton's poetry and i n hi s other w r i t i n g s — s h o r t f i c t i o n , c r i t i c a l a r t i c l e s , prefaces and forewords, l i t e r a r y and public correspondence. The d i a l e c t i c for poetic r e a l i z a t i o n finds i t s source i n the poet f i g u r e . And the making of these self-images and personas moves as i f i n f u l l c i r c l e . Ultimately, as i n the l a s t phase of the l a t e s i x t i e s , the d i a l e c t i c i s one of completion and haunting, poetry and poet. Thus, each phase of Layton's poetry moves out from an i n i t i a l stance and v i s i o n , and then completes i t s e l f i n a manner that o f f e r s a new point of departure. A l l of Layton's poet figures and t h e i r attending personas are explored i n the l i g h t of t h i s poetic d i a l e c t i c , as well as Layton's singular influence and contribution to the l i t e r a r y community of Canada, which stem from h i s v i s i o n of the poet. ACKNOWLEDGMENT Acknowledgments are due to David Rome, Curator, Bronfman C o l l e c t i o n of Jewish Canadiana, Montreal; Ruth Murray, Murray Memorial Libr a r y , University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon; and Jim Poison, S i r George Williams University Library, Montreal, who made av a i l a b l e to me the l i t e r a r y papers i n t h e i r respective c o l l e c t i o n s . Gale Dawson and Sharon Bond p a t i e n t l y bore the brunt of typing this d i s s e r t a t i o n . I r v i n g Layton generously extended the encouragement of h i s i n t e r e s t and many hours of stimulating discussion. Most of a l l , I am gr a t e f u l to my supervisor, Dr. D. G. Stephens, whose understanding, concern and support helped me through the most d i f f i c u l t times. In no small way, t h i s d i s s e r t a t i o n i s a t r i b u t e to him as a teacher. TABLE OF CONTENTS Chapter I P a g e The Early Poetry: 1931-1940 1 Chapter II Underwater Slums: Poetry of the Forties 32 Chapter III The Early F i f t i e s 91 Chapter IV The Excellence of Anger and Pugnacity 151 Chapter V In the Midst of the Fever'; 199 Chapter VI The Red Carpet: the Late F i f t i e s 254 Chapter VII The Perfect Form of a Serpent: the Early S i x t i e s 315 Chapter VIII Completion and the Haunting 367 Bibliography 408 CHAPTER I The Early Poetry: 1931-1940 The sources of a poet's development often l i e revealed i n h i s early poems. Images and themes present themselves f o r the f i r s t time. Though the poet may be employing borrowed or d e r i v a t i v e means, these poems contain the forms of h i s unique response and expression. I t i s poss i b l e to detect c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s and patterns that are to grow and develop, and these are made more apparent i n a study of the poetry i n the l i g h t of the poet's subsequent work. In Layton's case, t h i s i s more than a truism. It i s a fact of poetic growth and development, and reveals the perennial pattern i n the poet's w r i t i n g . For Layton's w r i t i n g takes on the curious form of a r i s i n g s p i r a l — a s e r i e s of cycles that reach for completion, but somehow develop beyond each other. In each phase of his career he begins i n i t i a l l y , moves out from a point of departure and v i s i o n , and then almost returns to the point of inception. Yet the return i s not an aboutface, for that would suggest but s t a s i s and r e p e t i t i o n . Rather, each cycle moves on further, and Layton finds himself on a further plane. These phases of the poet's development are e i g h t f o l d , yet i n each phase growth does not f i t neatly into t h i s scheme. Poetic growth i s organic, l i v i n g , and v i t a l . It has i t s points of intense overcoming and i t s instances of withdrawal and regression, and no c r i t i c a l approach can e a s i l y approximate the creative movement. Thus, I have deemed i t wisest to follow the course of the poet's career and to focus on the 2 poems themselves. _ He manifested an intense i n t e r e s t i n the images of h i s poetic growth at an early date. The self-images of the poet are the c e n t r a l and connecting l i n k and motif to the body of h i s work. The chronology of hi s poetry i s clo s e s t to the r e a l order of h i s development, a movement i n experience and s e l f - r e a l i z a t i o n which i s not i n c i d e n t a l f o r every poet. The poet fi g u r e then proves to be the c e n t r a l and engaging persona i n Layton's work. The poet figure changes and grows from phase to phase such that the persona of the s i x t i e s i s accumulative and con-tains within i t s e l f the poet fi g u r e of the e a r l i e r poems. Thus, i n order to see Layton's own achievement and development, i t i s necessary to give the poems the clos e s t s crutiny. Nor has any study attempted to f u l l y i n t e r p r e t Layton as he i n t e r p r e t s himself. The only book length study trea t s Layton's work homogeneously, that i s , a search for the thematic u n i t i e s i n the poems. Mandel's approach i s defined i n the f i r s t statements of his book, "Irving Layton's poetry exhibits the extraordinary degree to which h i s career has been concerned with an imaginative and i n t e l l e c t u a l pattern."''" Mandel, indeed, attempts to comprehend t h i s pattern, but i n the course of h i s examination he tends to overlook the phases and changes i n Layton's work. Mandel attempts to delineate and seize the pattern, and ignores the organic evolution which i s so much a part of Layton's poetic dynamic. In any case, l i t t l e c r i t i c a l a t tention has been focused on the pattern of Layton's books, and h i s own attempts to shape and reshape the body of h i s work. Layton's preoccupation with the poet f i g u r e finds i t s counterpart i n h i s concern 3 for the arrangement and c o l l e c t i o n of h i s own poems. Layton's f i r s t book did not make i t s appearance u n t i l fourteen years a f t e r h i s f i r s t poem had been published. In t h i s period h i s publications were not consistent, and he did not get into h i s own s t r i d e u n t i l the early f o r t i e s . In the t h i r t i e s h i s poems appear i n college papers, and only by the early f o r t i e s do they appear i n such publications as The Canadian Forum, F i r s t Statement and Saturday Night. Some of the poems of the t h i r t i e s are revised and republished i n the f o r t i e s , and many of the poems of the l a t t e r period are c o l l e c t e d i n Layton's f i r s t books. Layton at these two early stages reveals the scope of h i s themes, and the tendencies and mannerisms which were to be c h a r a c t e r i s t i c of h i s w r i t i n g for years to come. There are a number of textual complications which a r i s e i n connection with t h i s early period. The F a i l t - Y e . Times, the student paper of MacDonald College which Layton attended i n the l a t e 1930's, i s not a v a i l a b l e i n a f u l l f i l e . In addition, Layton republished many of his poems i n various places. The F a i l t - Y e Times was amalgamated into the M c G i l l D a i l y i n October of 1937. I t becomes easier to follow the course of Layton's publications since the f i l e of that student newspaper i s r e a d i l y a v a i l a b l e . In a reconstruction of Layton's published poems i t i s possible to see the forces that moved him into poetry: that they were, at f i r s t , simply i n s p i r a t i o n a l , but were l a t e r reinforced by a keen s o c i a l and p o l i t i c a l awareness which the poet did not h e s i t a t e to l e t a f f e c t h i s verse. With the discovery of h i s own muse i n 1944, Layton achieved hi s momentum and c o l l e c t e d his p e r i o d i c a l verse of the t h i r t i e s . Yet 4 hi s writings of the t h i r t i e s reveal h i s hesitancy throughout these years. Layton was also to republish h i s poems from period of c r e a t i v i t y to the next or subsequent period. By the early f o r t i e s he was con-s c i o u s l y b u i l d i n g up a body of work and a poetic world. The order of pu b l i c a t i o n of h i s poems at these stages reveals the poet's pre-occupation with d e f i n i t i o n and s e l f - d e f i n i t i o n . And t h i s also i s r e f l e c t e d i n a concern f o r the figu r e of the poet himself, h i s r o l e , the facets of h i s image and self-image, and the re l a t e d themes of c r e a t i v i t y and a r t i s t i c order. 2 Layton's f i r s t poem, " V i g i l , " was published when he was nineteen. L i v i n g on h i s own then, a f t e r graduating from Baron Byng High School, he had continued to write a f t e r h i s f i r s t impetus to verse began under the i n s p i r a t i o n of a high school teacher's reading 3 of a Tennyson poem. In a biographical study r e l a t i n g the forces i n Layton's e a r l y l i f e which af f e c t e d his poetry, George Edel s t e i n writes: A few s o c i a l s a t i r e s and l y r i c s , both written i n the mel l i f l u o u s quatrains of Tennyson, were composed i n Layton's t i n y room, with the walls reverberating to the raucous c r i e s of the l o c a l poultry merchants. A t y p i c a l product of the r i g i d school curriculum, he had never been introduced to modern poetry. The influence of the Romantic Poets i s apparent i n " V i g i l , " published i n The M c G i l l i a d , £n 1931. A.M. K l e i n , h i s former tutor, was the editor. " V i g i l , " re-discovered over t h i r t y years l a t e r and c o l l e c t e d i n The Laughing Rooster contains pathetic f a l l a c i e s and conceits of imagery i n a manner reminiscent of Imagist verse, and also resembles some of Louis Dudek's early verse published i n the f o r t i e s . However, i n " V i g i l , " the imagistic e f f e c t s tend to a quasi-symbolism, f o r the 5 evocations of the imagery are often linked to an order of poetic statements. Some of the effects include a pathetic f a l l a c y which i s intended to r u f f l e or shock an ant i c i p a t e d puritanism, and resembles the same e f f e c t i n a l a t e r poem of t h i s period, "Masquerade." In " V i g i l " s e x u a l i t y which has been repressed, almost seems to express i t s e l f i n the perverse: The shadowy swaying of trees Like robed nuns i n a forbidden dance . . . By implication,-, the poem castigates misdirected sensuousness and sensuality. Though i t i s awkwardly expressed, t h i s early preoccupation provides a glimpse of a c e n t r a l tension i n many of the l a t e r poems that Layton was to write. This unease with misdirected sexual energy surfaces i n the poems published i n the f i r s t three books, and l a t e r i n the context of human and sexual betrayal o f f e r s the strongest poems i n The Laughing Rooster, i n which volume " V i g i l " i s appropriately gathered f o r the f i r s t time. In t h i s poem, the uneasiness and vague disturbance of the evening world gives way to dawn. Some master a r t i s t i s creating the day by recreating the dimensions and colours of the earth. This painter's labours w i l l reveal "the labouring ages of earth." In the f i r s t h a l f of t h i s poem ( i t i s a c t u a l l y a t h i r t e e n l i n e sonnet with an i n i t i a l seven l i n e octave set o f f against a sestet) the earth does not fig u r e at a l l — b u t the props of the earth do. And these props, i n Layton's usage, suggest primordial r i t u a l s and s a c r i f i c e s . This i s a l l suggested and vaguely constructed, but the pattern holds nonetheless. Nothing i s f i n a l l y given b i r t h to i n t h i s evening world. Everything l i e s as i f i n wait, but expectant i n an almost unnatural sense. The sense of 6 yearning i s e f f e c t i v e l y imaged i n the "clouds the colour of oyster s h e l l s . " This image of s h e l l s i s a fi g u r e of expectant shapes waiting i n the probably f e r t i l e water-colour of the evening sky. And so are the "feathery grass," "boughs," and "trees." The d i f f e r e n t forms of organic l i f e seem to be preparing themselves " l i k e robed nuns," l i k e the suggested b i r d i n the grass. The event w i l l be s a c r i f i c i a l . And a b i r t h of a kind. In the sestet i t i s the day that has given b i r t h , that has created an image of the celebration inherent i n the morning. For the "suns", the p r o l i f e r a t i n g l i g h t s , have transformed the anonymous ca s t - o f f streams "To moving panes of l i g h t . " These energetic exuberances of the opaque are the new windows onto the creative dimensions of day 'bheje the-stn figures as a guiding source of energy. The f i n a l image of release encompasses the pun i n "panes" and t i e s i n the "labouring age of earth" with the pre-natal urgings of night. The suggestive use of time and f i g u r a t i v e language under-l i n e s t h i s early statement of c r e a t i v i t y . The young poet i s keeping the v i g i l with h i s new found imaginative awareness. The l a s t two l i n e s , which i n d i c a t e the c r e a t i v e release of energy i n the landscape of the poem, suggest the symbolic transformation of energy into imaginative and perceptual v i s t a s . And as the poet's f i r s t published poem, i t i s , i f not a manifesto of sorts, at l e a s t a declaration of intentions. Its theme i s large: nature as the cosmic arena of the c r e a t i v e , and the r e l a t i o n of the archetypes of moon and sun. Yet these motifs are not r e a l l y developed, and l i e i n the matrix of the poem as i f to be developed by the poet i n the future. Though the l i m i t a t i o n s are at f i r s t t e c h n i c a l and l i e i n the awkward command of the f i g u r a t i v e language, 7 the poem reaches a memorable denouement when the pathetic f a l l a c i e s give way to those f i n a l two l i n e s : And suns that turn the wayside streams To moving panes of l i g h t . It i s as i f the creative energy of the suns were turning a r t i s t i c , and the f l u x of nature becoming emblems of the creative i n t e l l i g e n c e , that i s , "moving panes of l i g h t . " The pattern of imagery and as s e r t i o n already suggests motifs that were to be ce n t r a l to Layton at the two peak phases of h i s career, the middle and lat e f i f t i e s and the early s i x t i e s . The theme of t r a g i c c r e a t i v i t y and the ce n t r a l symbols of the sun and water were to figu r e i n such poems as "The Cold Green Element," "For Mao Tse-Tung: A Meditation on F l i e s and Kings," "My Flesh Comfortless," and "A T a l l Man Executes a J i g . " For the next few years Layton continued at h i s sporadic work but found most of h i s stimulation at Horn's, a c a f e t e r i a on St. Lawrence Boulevard near Rachel St. Here he was drawn into the l e f t -wing c i r c l e s and t h e i r discussions, and was goaded into arguments and polemics, and spent most of h i s otherwise free hours reading omnl-vorously. In an interview on A p r i l 11, 1962, he underlined the e f f e c t of those days: My thinking then was r i s i n g i n p o l i t i c a l categories. I saw the world i n p o l i t i c a l and s o c i a l categories. I was very excitable and impressionable at that age and absorbing economlca 1, p o l i t i c a l and l i t e r a r y ideas. At that time there was a connection between l i t e r a t u r e and p o l i t i c s so that when you went to "Horn's," you had to be prepared to t a l k about Lenin and Dreiser or about Upton S i n c l a i r or Bernard Shaw.5 That "connection between l i t e r a t u r e and p o l i t i c s " was to inform much of what Layton was to write to the end of the t h i r t i e s . 8 In 1933 at the age of 21 Layton entered MacDonald College on a s p e c i a l government subsidized program i n A g r i c u l t u r e . To the campus he transferred the energies and concerns of h i s polemical and p o l i t i c a l days. He was p o l i t i c a l l y a ctive at MacDonald, but most of a l l he began w r i t i n g and publishing. In the February 21, 1936 e d i t i o n of F a i l t - Y e Times Layton published h i s next poem. Though "Masquerade" does not bear the signs of Layton's p o l i t i c a l i n t e r e s t s , i t cannot simply be viewed as "showing h i s early preoccupation with love." L i m i t i n g and clumsy as i t may be, i t stands beside " V i g i l " and reveals the poet's early preoccupation with the sources of i n s p i r a t i o n . The poet addresses h i s other s e l f , h i s i n s p i r a t i o n a l double, a kind of a beloved a l t e r ego. As i n " V i g i l " , there i s an i n i t i a l backdrop of opposites. The expectations, however, are varied, and the images and statements seem e l l i p t i c a l to each other. They are not r e a l l y u n i f i e d . E l l i p s i s i s c h a r a c t e r i s t i c of Layton at t h i s early stage. It i s as i f perceptions and images of d i f f e r e n t kinds and orders were being thrown o f f . The center to this pattern i s the form of the poem which i s conventional i n t h i s case. Later the free verse techniques permitted phrases and figures to connect themselves with an e c l e c t i c syntax and a s s o c i a t i o n ; that i s , the poet chose whatever proved o r g a n i c a l l y useful to h i s expression. In "Masquerade", the speaker wonders about the f i r s t words spoken "that night." These "words were mixed with wit." What the speaker or persona wonders about i s why the creative impulse "brings / Such crazy l i n e s so sprawling w r i t . " Putting aside the obvious technical considerations that these l i n e s are doggerel, one s t i l l notes the con-junction of the " b i r t h " or i n s p i r a t i o n a l urge with the b i r t h of the poem 9 and i t s attending "fever," "the mute unneeded pain." It i s as i f the b i r t h i t s e l f were unnecessary, as i f a r t i t s e l f were not worth the r i s k and e f f o r t . This ambivalence towards art and c r e a t i v i t y dogs Layton throughout h i s career and i t finds i t s second expression i n t h i s e a r l y poem. Rejection and acceptance are held together i n the r a t i o n a l -i z i n g mind and they are the two attitudes that make the poet both bless and curse h i s l o t . And c h a r a c t e r i s t i c a l l y , a tongue-in-cheek conceit, a pathetic f a l l a c y with a h i n t of the sexually perverse, finds i t s e l f i n the answer to the speaker's musings: And coming from one mammoth l i g h t , Were waiting for the A p r i l sun To shyly l i f t the hem of night. The bathetic, the pathetic f a l l a c i e s , and the imagery, almost p a r a l l e l the sestet of " V i g i l . " But i t i s from these early sources that Layton was to draw the imagery and symbols for h i s l a t e r poems. The early traces i n this poet, common i n the early verse of many, were not to disappear e n t i r e l y . The f i r s t signs continue to appear. Yet t h i s poem beneath i t s own sloppy t e c h n i c a l masquerade bears the early signs of a contradiction of tones: the ludicrous and the serious. In a way t h i s points to what .was to bother Layton and h i s c r i t i c s — t h e a b i l i t y to graft opposite tones into one e f f e c t i v e whole and not to allow them to .marl the o v e r a l l unity of p a r t i c u l a r poems. Sandwiched between these two early poems on c r e a t i v i t y and the poetic process i s "A Jewish Rabbi." This seemingly i n c i d e n t a l fact i s i n keeping with Layton's ambivalence to h i s Jewish sources and roots. This early ambivalence was to grow more complex, yet t h i s unease 10 was to be a singular factor i n h i s development. At a l l phases of h i s wr i t i n g he was to be concerned with Jewishness and the Hebrew e t h i c . The p o r t r a i t i t s e l f of the Jewish rabbi i s not ambivalent. Curiously, this short poem contains a blatant redundancy i n i t s t i t l e . But t h i s i s not by way of accident. It i s the equation of Jewish with the i n e f f e c t u a l i t y of that orthodox Judaism which was b l i n d i n the face of the h i s t o r i c a l forces of pre-war Europe, of Jewish persecution and the r i s e of Fascism, and of the debate i n Jewish i n t e l l e c t u a l c i r c l e s between s o c i a l i s t i n t e r n a t i o n a l i s m and Zionism. I f t h i s rabbi were a vis i o n a r y prophet who looked at h i s own people with a sharp eye and an admonishing tongue, he probably would not merit t h i s b i t t e r p o r t r a i t . For Layton t h i s rabbi was a parody, at the most, of the prophetic t r a d i t i o n whose natural l i n k s i n the t h i r t i e s were with the various s o c i a l i s t v i s i o n s of j u s t i c e . What Layton may be i m p l i c i t l y using as a measure of comment i s not the r i c h r a b b i n i c a l or mythical world which K l e i n was drawn t o — t o Layton i t was to be dismissed because i t s contribution i n a l l e v i a t i n g man's l o t and transforming the conditions of c a p i t a l i s t society was l i m i t e d . Layton was turning against the detached Jews set i n l i m i t i n g orthodoxy. The rabbi i s too engrossed to see the i l l s , the sufferings of h i s fellow Jews. He i s aloof and l i v e s i n a small corner of the world. He i s the example of the bent-over crin g i n g Jew: He slowly s t i r s h i s jaundiced tea And sighs f or lemon...ach. His room Is empty and he ta l k s with kings. Nine years l a t e r t h i s poem i s c o l l e c t e d i n Here and Now with two changes. The f i r s t involves the s u b s t i t u t i o n of " I s r a e l ' s " f o r "Jacob's b r e e d " — 11 an a l l u s i o n to the p a t r i a r c h rather than to the people. But more s i g n i f i c a n t l y the poem i s r e - t i t l e d , "My Father." His father, Moishe Lazarovitch, l i v e d i n a secluded world of h i s own. In Roumania he had been the records keeper for the owner of an estate. I t was a p o s i t i o n of some importance but t h i s status disappeared i n Canada, to which he had been drawn by the promising l e t t e r s of his eldest son, Abraham, who had been sent away to avoid conscription.^ On a r r i v a l i n Canada, the elder Lazarovitch retreated into h i s own s c h o l a r l y world. His ineffectualness i n earning a l i v i n g , and h i s death i n 1921 when Layton was nine, l e f t t h e i r marks on the poet. Yet with the years Layton's p o s i t i o n v i s - a - v i s h i s Jewishness took on a more complex dimension. But t h i s i n t i t i a l poem outlines h i s f i r s t a llegiances most c l e a r l y . I t was the angry and moralist prophetic t r a d i t i o n which Layton i d e n t i f i e d with i n l a t e r years. Yet only i n the Foreword to A Red Carpet For the Sun was Layton able to admit that h i s father's otherworldliness, though i n e f f e c t u a l i n worldly concerns, s t i l l provided a l i n k to an i n t e l l e c t u a l t r a d i t i o n of some value and to an even larger mystical order. Layton was not to meet t h i s head-on for many years. Not u n t i l The Swinging Flesh does he indulge i n the same vituperation and unabashed scorn. And i n The Whole  Bloody B i r d , as with K l e i n , he finds a f i n a l r e s o l u t i o n to t h i s pre-occupation i n the state of I s r a e l , though his i s not e s s e n t i a l l y a Z i o n i s t v i s i o n , nor an i d e a l i s t i c v i s i o n of the Jew. The early years at MacDonald College were not productive from a p o e t i c a l point of view. Layton was involved with the p o l i t i c a l l y oriented S o c i a l Research Club and acted as i t s president i n 1934-35. He also began w r i t i n g p o l i t i c a l l y r a d i c a l a r t i c l e s f or the F a i l t - Y e Times 12 i n a column c a l l e d "Current History." It was as i f " V i g i l , " "Masquerade," and "A Jewish Rabbi" r e i t e r a t e d themselves i n the pattern of h i s development. From the former two he moved to the r e j e c t i o n and stance of the l a t t e r poem. He was now ready to engage h i s f u l l energies i n p o l i t i c a l concerns, but not yet ready to engage h i s poetry because he probably had not gained e i t h e r assurance or the r e a l need to extend h i s p o l i t i c s into verse. In any case, Layton did not sense that he f i t t e d i n , as yet, with his s o c i a l awareness. The sense of being an outsider which had grown out of childhood experiences and h i s years i n high school were now rein f o r c e d at MacDonald and were to give him a d e f i n i t e perspective to be re-created i n many versions of the persona of h i s l a t e r verse. There they were, a l l healthy looking English p h i l i s t i n e s , red cheeked, blue-eyed, with not a thought i n t h e i r heads and here was myself, eager, e n t h u s i a s t i c , con-cerned about the a f f a i r s of the world, the r i s e of Naziism, the employment s i t u a t i o n and i n no time I got myself involved i n an argument thinking that the people i n front of me were characters i n Horn's Cafeteria. I was met with incomprehensible stares. A f t e r a while I could see that they regarded me as some sort of queer animal who had somehow or other been l e t i n by some grotesque mistake.^ Though t h i s and s i m i l a r experiences l e f t t h e i r mark on him and h i s shaping awareness, h i s main p o l i t i c a l i n t e r e s t s and a c t i v i t i e s continued unabated. In the MacDonald College Annual of 1934-35, as President of the S o c i a l Research Club, Layton outlined h i s own p o l i t i c a l stance as w e l l : War and the suppression of c i v i l l i b e r t i e s are the burning issues today. A twofold purpose motivates the a c t i v i t i e s of the MacDonald Research Club: f i r s t to consider i m p a r t i a l l y the main trends of the present economic system and the basic changes that should be 13 affe c t e d ; second, to arouse and organize campus sentiment against the twin menace of War and Fascism. Membership i s open to a l l students who are earnestly opposed to these e v i l s , and who are bent upon destroying them.9 So i t i s not wonder that when the poetic impulse returned i n the f a l l of 1937, Layton's f i r s t poems proved to be p o l i t i c a l i n subject. Between the f a l l of 1937 and the f a l l of 1938 he published twelve poems and began to f e e l more comfortable with poetry. Not d i r e c t l y concerning himself with the sources of h i s c r e a t i v i t y , he began to use poetry as a v e h i c l e for h i s more vociferous concerns. Since the college paper was amalgamated into the M c G i l l Daily, Layton's assurance must have been bolstered by his increasing readership. Of these twelve poems, about h a l f a r i s e from p o l i t i c a l occasions, and the rest are e i t h e r romantic or meditative l y r i c s . This pattern can be seen as the f i r s t instance of Layton's varied poetic bents. This v a r i e t y that was to confuse hi s c r i t i c s was a combination of the serious and the l i g h t , of "high" and "low" poetry. At t h i s e arly stage i t i n d i c a t e d that the poet was not intent on preserving a pre-cocious and precious l y r i c i s m , but was intent on being open and engaging. These f i r s t poems are s a t i r i c a l and t o p i c a l . The two poems under the heading of "Poetic Socialism" already prefigure the kind of poem that was to p r o l i f e r a t e i n the s a t i r i c c o l l e c t i o n s of the early and m i d - f i f t i e s . I t also points to the poet's early declaration for h i s poetry: a marriage of poetry and the world. " P o r t r a i t of a Pseudo-Socialist" i s a lampoon directed against the living-room s o c i a l i s t , the one who "...shouting f u r y 'pon the system's flaws / . . . s i t s a t t e n t i v e to h i s own applause." Hypocrisy, and i n s i n c e r i t y are 14 human t r a i t s that i r r i t a t e the poet. With the c l i c k i n g and teetering rhymes of heroic couplets Layton attacks the man who uses the p o l i t i c a l viewpoint but i s r e a l l y caught up i n the e f f e c t s of his harangue, of h i s own " r o l e " , his own "ego" showing i t s e l f o f f as the non-conformist. The archaisms and the choice of meter have the e f f e c t of parody, and set the p o r t r a i t up as a kind of minor cari c a t u r e . In "On the Proposed A i r Pact Outlawing the Bombing of C i t i e s " Layton .is j i b i n g at the hypocrisy of the B r i t i s h p o l i t i c i a n s who supposedly stood up for democracy, but f o r fear of the Le f t revolutionary s p i r i t of Spain, did a double take and ended up allowing Franco to win i n Spain. But i n t h i s expose of the double-think and double-talk of the Western democracies as the C i v i l War tore Spain, Layton was already s t r i k i n g at another character-i s t i c target f or h i s s a t i r e : the deviousness of men (and p o l i t i c s ) and the perversion of language (and thus t r u t h ) : that i s , propaganda. The early s a t i r i s t was already aiming at cant and f u s t i a n . Neither of these poems read l i k e the agitprop of New F r o n t i e r s ^ f o r they are not marred by s o c i a l i s t or communist jargon and they spring from a detach-ment and a commitment working i n balance. Rather, they are marred by t h e i r adherence to a s t i l t e d and confining meter and rhyme. The d i c t i o n i s often poetic and archaic with l i t t l e formal e f f e c t . Though as Layton developed from rhyme and closed verse of t h i s kind, he reserved these formal means for the s a t i r e he was to write. The long poem, "Ah Rats!!! (A P o l i t i c a l Extravaganza)", dated A p r i l 14th, 1938, attacks the p o l i c y of appeasement of the Western democracies i n regard to H i t l e r . As an 'extravaganza', i t can give i t s e l f over, however, to the c a r i c a t u r i s t i c devices of much agitprop 15 written in the thirties. The setting is a p o l i t i c a l meeting amongst the rats. Different speakers are heard: Another holds his paw aloft And with a voice beguiling, soft, Orates: "The rats of whom you speak Are dominated by a clique; We their own Fuehrer we should deal For somehow he's our friend I feel; Since wars today are won by cash, Bethink you, rats, and be not rash." The chairman speaks and a l l are s t i l l , "The vote is ninety-nine to n i l That we with Fuehrer Rat shall treat. Now legend says we are discreet; We must a proper rodent choose Who'll bring the others to our views.... Your squeaking t e l l s me I am right Its plain that only fools w i l l fight. "Since t i s agreed the wisest plan Is swift to place, i f but we can, An emissary in the House— A full-sized rat and not a mouse— 'This needful to select the best, A rat more cunning than the rest, And for our cause no better than This lanky rat from Birmingham." The meeting loudly broke in cheers, The wives and maidens were in tears, They a l l danced up, they a l l danced down, Short t a i l s , long t a i l s , black coats, brown; For now they have in Parliament A delegate whom they have sent; When Brother Neville l i f t s his voice Ah listen! Hear the rats rejoice? But Layton moves on from this kind of writing. Of the other poems published in this period, the most effective are those whose themes arise from behind the backdrop of the th i r t i e s , shed the limitations of the above poems, and move into a more radical or rather reductive vision in which the visual imagination comes to the fore and the themes become larger in scope. 16 An early metaphysical bent manifests i t s e l f . In " V o l t a i r e Jezebel" an almost Nietschean echo re l a t e s the death of God: ...who died of rage, Cursing a race u n s a t i s f i e d With metaphysics as a proof Of h i s divine e x i s t e n c e — Or the f l u t t e r i n g o o f a dead b u t t e r f l y ' s wing Shaken by the sun. The Jezebel, h a r l o t philosopher i s V o l t a i r e whose ra t i o n a l i s m denied the existence of a deity. But Layton's early signature on th i s poem l i e s i n the l a s t image. It i s a recurring one and makes i t s e l f manifest again i n " B u t t e r f l y on Rock," a meditative poem that gives the t i t l e to a recent study of Canadian poetry. This curse i s also transformed into a human curse—man's damnation of h i s condition. This t r a g i c declaration and bravado inform other poems. This damning stance i s part of the reductive v i s i o n i n "Days of Wrath" i n which another c h a r a c t e r i s t i c theme i s f i r s t a r t i c u l a t e d . Men "are forever doomed / To be l i f e ' s wreckage and i t s b i t t e r waste". But this i s tempered by the perspective of man's weakness and the pe r v e r s i t y he lends himself to i n the character of culture and c i v i l i z a t i o n : For man h i s lust-begotten fortune builds Upon a pyramid of human s k u l l s And with i t s varnish a l l corruption g i l d s And each ennobled feature slowly d u l l s ; Thus b l i n d l y driven, l i k e groping ants we creep, And with these crawling t r i b e s a kinship keep. Insect and reductive imagery sums up t h i s statement of the debasing and de-humanizing forces i n h i s t o r y and c i v i l i z a t i o n . This sub-human world i s the source of much of Layton's imagery. I t lends i t s e l f to the v i s i o n of a Timon coupled with the beast and animal obsessions of a raving Lear. Man i s the perverted beast; he who has 17 consciousness and culture i s most deserving of the curse and the wrath of the poet. Yet i t i s t h i s debasement of c i v i l i z a t i o n which likens him to lower forms of l i f e . Layton had not t o t a l l y reduced h i s v i s i o n of man. Later he was to enlarge h i s statement and add to i t the judgment that man's condition renders him more despicable than the beast. This statement i n the above poem finds i t s antecedents i n Shakespearean sources, but the choice i s revealing. Once he discarded these sources and t h e i r outmoded poetic language he was to emerge with h i s own r h e t o r i c . Another sonnet, "De Mortuis" ( l a t e r r e - t i t l e d "Release" i n The Laughing Rooster), reveals the poet's other l i t e r a r y models and forebears. It has c l a s s i c a l Roman echoes and could have sprung from English versions of Juvenal's d i a t r i b e s , the odes of Horace, or the short poems of a Catullus. This could have been picked up through Layton's readings at MacDonald College mitigated through the medium of Elizabethan verse.. Wishing for the death of an enemy, the speaker finds some release from h i s antagonism to the inexorable. From another's death, he w i l l f i n d power and v i s i o n . Then w i l l my youth aspire beyond the f l e s h And tread bold ways to a remembered peace. And f i n d l i f e ' s s p i t e f u l fever ebb and cease In spacious dreams where l i g h t i s born afresh. Yet s h a l l I wonder how our s u l l e n mirth Provokes the ancient anger of the earth. These "spacious dreams" suggest a transcending v i s i o n . Layton returns to t h i s v i s i o n with maturity and power f i r s t i n The Swinging Flesh and i n B a l l s f o r a One-Armed Juggler. The af f i r m a t i o n then a r i s e s from a v i s i o n i n which the poet's consciousness w i l l always re-appear i n other forms, that the imagination w i l l re-create i t s e l f no matter whatever doom 18 prescribes i t s e l f . I t i s the immortality of the imagination that i s sustained as i f there were a poetic force i n the cosmos which can never be o b l i t e r a t e d . This theme finds i t s re s o l u t i o n when the Timon resolves the contradictions of the human condition, when he touches on the other ways of transcending r e a l i t y . "Spacious dreams" i n any case suggest that the next mode the poet may take may be the f a n t a s t i c a l and the s u r r e a l . E d e l s t e i n , r e l a t i n g the above poem to Layton's growing disenchantment with left-wing dogma and the i n d i f f e r e n t student body, sees the poet expressing h i s e s s e n t i a l l o n e l i n e s s again, and h i s sense of f r u s t r a t i o n . This may be the p a r t i c u l a r emotional source of that poem and i t i s reinforced by Layton's own reaction to the dogma he found among the r a d i c a l s he was associating with: I could see a type of mind which, as I grow older, I f i n d more and more abhorrent. A completely un-l i t e r a r y and a n t i - l i t e r a r y mind, an unimaginative mind that puts w i l l and reason before the imagination. I could sense i t then but I can see i t f a r more c l e a r l y today. L® As i f i n keeping with this elegiac note, "Meditations of a L i b e r a l " i s r e - t l t l e d "Requiem" i n The Laughing Rooster. I t i s the p l a i n t of the l i b e r a l i n a time of changing values and an expression of h i s i n a b i l i t y to function with a coherent viewpoint: How s h a l l we meet the burden of our times, Or make profession to our tongue-tied f a i t h When a l l the lamps are gutted, one by one. The theme of change i s a major one i n Layton's work. Though he i s not a l i b e r a l , t h i s theme provides the crux for the preface to the second e d i t i o n of A Laughter i n the Mind, and the l a s t image i n the above poem reverberates i n the f i n a l poem of that volume. That preface i s a paean to f l u x and change i n h i s t o r y and c a r r i e s i t s e l f forward to The Swinging 19 Flesh. In the early s i x t i e s when the North American ethos became conscious of i t s v u l n e r a b i l i t y and confusion i n the face of change, Layton had already foreseen the process a few years before. F i n a l l y , i n The Shattered P l i n t h s , Layton reaches the paradoxical r e s o l u t i o n to this theme. In any case, i t can be argued that i n "Meditations of a L i b e r a l , " Layton's presentiment i s s o c i a l i s t i c . The l i b e r a l i s complaining about the s o c i a l order he sees crumbling between the on-slaughts of the Le f t and those of Fascism. Layton seems to be preparing h i s reader for the new era promised by the l e f t ideology of the t h i r t i e s . Many i n t e l l e c t u a l s and a r t i s t s who subscribed to t h i s were to be d i s -appointed i n the f o r t i e s and f i f t i e s . Layton i n the f i f t i e s was to see that the god had indeed f a i l e d and that the problems of technological society were to go beyond the usual analyses and c r i t i c i s m s of capitalism. The process of dehumanization was universal and not only l i m i t e d to Western society. The apparent urgency of "Ah Rats!!!" c a r r i e s over to another poem dated November 13, 1938, two days a f t e r the twentieth anniversary of the Armistice. Layton was moved again by the t o p i c a l and the t i m e l y : — the immediate i n the world he l i v e d i n — a n impulse hard to avoid i n the l a t e t h i r t i e s . The backdrop i n this "Medley for Our Times" s h i f t s , and these s h i f t s and changes of tone move the poem from an elegiac note to a s a t i r i c a l stance, and f i n a l l y to an oracular declaration. I t becomes t r u l y a medley, then, and a c o l l e c t i o n of d i f f e r e n t notes held together i n one piece. These three tones, i n e f f e c t , inform d i f f e r e n t viewpoints of the contemporary world, of the l a t e t h i r t i e s . S i g n i f i c a n t l y the poet holds them together i n one poem. They are sustained awkwardly, but sustained nonetheless. These tones inform 20 the rest of the early poems and are a mixture which time and time again w i l l remain i n Layton's poems—they are the di r e c t i o n s of his voice. Three walls Lurch upward through the mist, While the r a i n decorates With a broken s t r i n g of pearls Each faded l i n e of b r i c k , And a doorway Gapes at my window Incredulously. This ro o f l e s s three-walled house or room represents Layton's present of the t h i r t i e s , empty within, and standing l i k e an a f f r o n t . Each of i t s parts contain a "mad.' t a l e , " a fragmentary piece of the puzzle of human s u f f e r i n g . What f e a r f u l , strange imaginings Of curious insensate things. A l l the objects and paraphernalia of this world are emblems of the adversity of the times. Yet they speak out as i f they were personas of a fragmentary h a l l u c i n a t i o n . Buying a poppy i s a stupid i r o n i c act for i t w i l l add cash or commerce to a world that w i l l return to war and drums. The poppy interlude suggests the C h r i s t i a n theme of ' -s a c r i f i c e . But that redemption myth of the Western democracies can do l i t t l e here. C h r i s t i a n i t y and ca p i t a l i s m are bankrupt. There i s only the s i l e n c e , then, i n the face of human s t r i f e and s u f f e r i n g . Retribution may come from j o i n i n g i n the common cause which in v e r t s the C h r i s t i a n myth and i t s perverted m i l i t a r i s m : What did he say, Before he f e l l ? He t o l d the word, "Destroy t h i s h e l l . " C h r i s t becomes a red revolutionary preaching destruction of the status quo. 21 And f i n a l l y i n the l a s t stanza the i n i t i a l , almost s u r r e a l image returns: Three walls You s h a l l push upward through the mist, For the night has come And our disordered l i v e s Go out upon the wind Like the f r a i l whimper Of a beaten i d i o t . But the gods . . . w i l l send down Some k i n d l i e r dream of l i f e To s t i r the busy minds of men, To f i l l that gaping Venomous doorway. The poet merges this doorway and what i t stands for with an apostrophe also d i r e c t e d against h i s own mouth, that other oracular opening: 0 incredulous mouth Draw back your l i p s ! This indeed i s a poem of disorder. The d i s a s s o c i a t i v e technique and mood are reinforced by the poet's distance from the sur r e a l house and from the s u f f e r i n g masses. He has withdrawn i n the poem, and so has Layton by means of th i s persona. This allows Layton to appeal as i f to everyone and no one at the same time. The obsessive apostrophe suggests that the speaker has been so drawn to the images that are c o r r e l a t i v e s f o r h i s states of mind or that the intense force of objects and images have almost taken him over. The tangential l i n k s between the moods i n this poem, and the obsessive presence of a disembodied image of walls and a door, create the dist u r b i n g v i s u a l elements. I t i s as i f the claustrophobia of human s t r i f e and s u f f e r i n g were never to break open and free of these bounds and bonds. As the f i r s t developed instance of the poet's tendencies to 22 order imagery and statement into v i s i o n , i t i s a s i g n i f i c a n t poem i n Layton's early work. I t points to the technique and manner of the l a t e r v i s i o n a r y poems i n which Layton was to create h i s own symbolic and su r r e a l landscapes and immoveables as the props and backdrop of h i s developing v i s i o n . Layton i s so engrossed i n h i s own unfolding tableau i n "Medley f or Our Times" that he r a r e l y looks back i n th i s poem, and he sees t h i s order of images as the order of the mundane r e a l i t y he treats so c a u s t i c a l l y i n h i s s a t i r i c a l pieces. It i s also strange to note that t h i s combination of the s a t i r i c a l and the i r o n i c impulses, with i t s vi s i o n a r y and obsessive c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s , sometimes hovers on the h a l l u c i n a t o r y . The bridges and gulfs between v i s i o n and h a l l u c i n a t i o n inform Layton's unease and the thematic tension i n h i s vis i o n a r y poems, and w i l l f i n d d i f f e r e n t and varied resolutions i n such l a t e r poems as "The T a l l Man Executes a J i g . " This unease and tension s i g n a l the fact that the poet w i l l not be s a t i s f i e d merely with l y r i c i s m , but as an a r t i s t , w i l l attempt to construct an imaginative world of hi s own. There i s no other a l t e r n a t i v e for the creative i n t e l l i g e n c e that i s at the point of being wracked to pieces by the contradictions of an obsessing v i s i o n of s u f f e r i n g and unmeaning. For the meantime t h i s does not demand a maturity of e f f o r t . That maturity begins to show signs of i t s poetic energy and in t e g r a t i o n in.the books of the f o r t i e s , and develops through the books of the early and mid f i f t i e s , coming to an apprehension of that tension i n the "Note" and poems of A Laughter i n the Mind. In any case, the d i s a s s o c i a t i o n i s only i n c i p i e n t i n these e a r l y poems. Nevertheless though the mode i s not the s u r r e a l , 23 i t i s u n s e t t l i n g to see separate themes and moods held together so loosely i n a poem that demands a more imaginative i n t e g r a t i o n . On the other hand, t h i s may be construed as only the attempt of a beginning poet who has not found the form and the coherence to fashion consistency and e f f e c t i v e poetic wholeness. But i n i t s own way t h i s poem prepared the poet for the next attempt i n poetic order, the energy and nature of which was to emerge f u l l force l a t e r when the poet would be " c a l l e d " to his poems. The most r e a l i z e d and complete of these poems, "Old Hal i f a x Cemetery," combines within i t s e l f the elements of s t y l e and s h i f t s of tone and stances of the ea r l y poems. Cemeteries would always hold a fa s c i n a t i o n for Layton. In the l a t e r cemetery poems Layton writes h i s various poetic statements on the theme of death. Cemeteries bring out the pathos, s a t i r e , r i d i c u l e , and the knack for seeing the absurd. This compassion, rage, and celebration, may stem from that c e n t r a l experience i n his youth, (also evoked i n "A Death i n the Family" i s the death of h i s father when he was only nine) which imprinted i t s e l f on the poet's youthful awareness. In the t r a v e l poems he was to write i n the s i x t i e s , cemeteries often become the keys to understanding each culture's v i s i o n i n terms of i t s attitudes to l i f e and death. A cemetery i s a f i n a l c u l t u r a l statement—a f i n a l meeting of a culture's contradictions and s t a n c e — a kind of a c o l l e c t i v e coda. For the poet i t i s a source of meditation and questioning. It i s at the same time the source of much human absurdity and also the wonder at the absurd i t s e l f . A l l dissolves there f o r the poet. And from i t he can draw h i s own c r y s t a l l i z e d v i s i o n . Cemeteries also evoke a la c o n i c and rhetorical" response.is one 24 andthe same instance. In the "Old Ha l i f a x Cemetery" the cynic and i d e a l i s t meet, as i t were, i n the same p o s i t i o n before the \frorld. While one emphasizes the shame, the corruption and absurdity of human l i f e , the other can s t i l l f e e l f o r the s u f f e r e r s . But one may have to mask t h i s s e n s i t i v i t y , t h i s awareness of the pathos of i t a l l . A s a t i r i c and an i r o n i c stance i s l i k e a protective armour. It allows the poet to foray with irony and reductive wit without being drawn i n by sentiment or bathos. The poem moves along by means of s h i f t s , the tension of opposites: cemetery, c i t y ; angels, excreting b i r d s ; v i r g i n s , seducers. If these opposites or contradictions resolve themselves into a v i s i o n of the good, i t i s only by means of the i r o n i c u n i v e r s a l fellowship of death. For death was the occasion f o r making "These sunken, s u l l e n stones / Absurdly... / ...advertise a p i l e of bones." And, Here l i e seducers and mean knaves Who now a f r i e n d l i n e s s achieve Thro' huddled graves. The opposites p r o l i f e r a t e before t h i s observer. The opposites are f i n a l l y resolved i n death and i n the grave, but within the context of a c l a s s i c i r o n i c stance. Yet t h i s death does not even provide one with s i n g u l a r i t y or i n d i v i d u a l i d e n t i t y . ...not the dates, Or epitaphs with thou and thee, But birdlime etchings on the s l a t e s That marks F i n i s . The poet's statement could have no more reductive a strophe than the excremental. And i t i s t h i s continued seesaw and inversion of opposites (underlined by the reductive) which keeps the poem (and the poet) from either r a i l i n g incoherently or from s i l e n c e . And these f i n a l "etchings" 25 are almost c o r r e l a t i v e s for the l i n e s of the a r t i s t i c statement and v i s i o n . But the poem does not leave o f f at t h i s point. There i s a stanzaic epilogue, a sort of aside. This i s a gesture Layton was to indulge i n frequently, stemming from a desire to put i n even one more word a f t e r the l a s t word. The poet has almost a n t i c i p a t e d the reader's response, for a f t e r t h i s l a s t image, what i s there l e f t to pay? What remains, then, i s the r e - a p p l i c a t i o n of the i n s i g h t s of t h is poem, the poetic etchings on t h i s theme. They are to f a l l back into l i f e , into the here and now: One mournful thought i s f i t Before I to my Silence pass: These die without the benefit Of poison gas. The poet brings us back to pre-war Halif a x . The v i s i o n of the dead fades away. The cemetery i s now a fact to be reconciled with; i t bears a lesson to carry home. For i n the immediate future, Layton seems to be suggesting, the era of poison gas w i l l return. More graves w i l l sprout i n H a l i f a x as a r e s u l t of explosions and munitions and the whole phenomenon of war. The implications p r o l i f e r a t e . For i t i s as i f the "Old H a l i f a x Cemetery" were obsolete. In i t l i e the victims of natural death. The c i v i l i a n deaths arose from accidents or natural causes. These were i n d i v i d u a l deaths. Soon the opposites w i l l encompass mass death, and there w i l l not be time to name the I s a b e l l a Ferns, the Susan and Jed Maclvers. This reading can be corroborated in"the l i g h t of Layton's p o l i t i c a l awareness and statements i n the a r t i c l e s o n . p o l i t i c s he wrote p r i o r to t h i s poem's composition. He was not unaware of the new conditions brought into play i n the pre-war years and the m i l i t a r y preparations being made i n 26 Europe. A new dimension had been added by technology. One of the a r t i c l e s Layton wrote f o r the MacDonald College Supplement of the M c G i l l D a i l y i s an example of h i s p o l i t i c a l awareness. The vigour of the prose points to the other d i r e c t i o n s Layton was to take i n h i s l a t e r prose writings: h i s prefaces and t h e i r blunt statements on Canadian culture, on the nature and t r a i t s of the poet, and the creative process, and on the dilemmas of the twentieth century. The persona which l a t e r emerges from h i s poems was reinforced by the vigor and bluntness of h i s polemics and the l i t e r a r y controversies he engaged i n . But these stem from the force of h i s i n s i g h t s and the prose which he wrote at t h i s early stage: Mr. Chamberlain's love l e t t e r s to Mussolini would seem to ind i c a t e that the heart of the National Government has s l i d down into the I t a l i a n boot. However, that there are many farsighted statesmen i n the B r i t i s h I s l e s who fear the Caesarian ambitions of the renegade s o c i a l i s t undeniable. Thus, the unpredictable and contradictory nature of B r i t a i n ' s foreign p o l i c y reveals a s i g n i f i c a n t gap between her imperial and cl a s s i n t e r e s t s . The r e s u l t i n g v a c i l l a t i o n has had the most unfortunate consequences for the peace and security of the world. Might has triumphed over r i g h t . The unsheathed sword has once again become the f i n a l a r b i t e r of i n t e r n a t i o n a l morality. The f i g u r a t i v e language i n the employ of a clear and h a r d - f i s t e d writer reinforces t h i s vigour: The democratic governments have adopted the worst possible method to f i g h t the F a s c i s t b u l l i e s — b y en-couraging them.... Nevertheless, the democracies must hasten to put more i r o n i n t o t h e i r p o l i t i c a l d i e t . They must learn to match the d i c t a t o r s ' monosyllables with r i n g i n g monosyllables of t h e i r own. Fortunately, i t i s not yet too l a t e . . . . It needs only a firm w i l l f o r the democratic nations to act together to preserve peace and l i b e r t y . They must learn to t r u s t each other 27 and s t r i k e hard and f e a r l e s s l y for a much-desired purpose. There i s only one flaw i n the above reasoning. Alas, there i s no honour even among thieves! Layton's s o c i a l i s t analysis tempered by an understanding of r e a l -p o l i t i k informs his f o r c e f u l seriousness. Style and utter realism mask the writer's early s i n g u l a r i t y of mind. He analyses by means of a d i a l e c t i c method, forces open the s i t u a t i o n , sees the two a l t e r n a t i v e s as i f they were black and white and apparent, and forges ahead with h i s own s o l u t i o n . Yet at the close he comes to one r e s e r v a t i o n — t h e Laytonic reservation, one can add—already expressed i n "Medley for Our Times": Alas, There i s no honour Even among thieves. This i s the s e i z i n g point of view of the poet. It i s blunt, c r y s t a l l i z e d and uncompromising, yet u t t e r l y r e a l i s t i c . And the argument fuses these into the one mould of the poem which begins i n medias res and moves s w i f t l y with argument and assertion. This b r i o informs these early poems and demonstrates that the early Layton had already shaped him-s e l f to the tendencies of s p i r i t he was to make complex with the coming maturing years. Layton had also begun to attempt to write short f i c t i o n , which also throws l i g h t on the poetry of t h i s phase. He i n fact never r e a l l y stopped w r i t i n g i n t h i s form from the early period to the days of F i r s t Statement and Northern Review, and l a s t i n g up to The Swinging Flesh. In e f f e c t by t h i s early period, 1937-38, Layton had already t r i e d h i s hand at a l l the d i f f e r e n t genres he was to work i n i n the coming years: poetry, a r t i c l e s , short f i c t i o n . 28 "Silhouette of a Man" was published at the end of 1937, i n the midst of h i s f i r s t sustained period of w r i t i n g poetry. The story i s developed l i k e a poem, a prose poem centered upon one episode, an ant i c i p a t e d rendezvous between a down-and-out unemployed man and the g i r l who was to aid him. Its exploration of human disappointment, non-communication and misunderstanding were to be ca r r i e d over to most of Layton's subsequent short s t o r i e s . Waiting f o r this g i r l to come, the man i s led into a disappointment. She never ar r i v e s as she had presumably promised, and from t h i s disappointment the r a t i o n a l i z a t i o n emerges: Chi e f l y I thought i t was human s u f f e r i n g that had moved her; not know that misery, i f i t i s too common i s an object of contempt. The empty marionnette did not come. I f e l t an i l l -defined sense of pleasure as of a man who has spent many years i n a dungeon and i s suddenly released. I had neither begged nor borrowed. But neither did I know where a morsel of food was coming from. I picked myself up slowly and hunching my shoulders walked unsteadily down the path. If she "were the empty marionnette", perhaps i t i s also the f a u l t of the man. In any case, the man must continue on his way. But the g i r l as puppet may be interpreted as being a chimera, a character i n the man's fantasy and daydreams. On another l e v e l , i t may be a parable of Layton's as yet u n f u l f i l l e d attachment to the muse. In the midst of h i s p o l i t i c s and h i s i d e n t i f i c a t i o n with the abject, the muse has not yet come back to f i n a l l y o f f e r him her r e a l presence and help. Without her, he i s s t i l l the s i l h o u e t t e — a n d without t h i s fem-ini n e p r i n c i p l e he must remain as he i s for the time being. He may be angry with her, but there i s some consolation i n the fact that he 29 has not had to beg from her. He can s t i l l make i t on the terms of hi s present condition. Layton as poet was to remain on these terms for some years yet. "Old H a l i f a x Cemetery", the l a s t poem of t h i s period, was published i n the M c G i l l D a i l y i n 1940. It was what the poet salvaged from a depressing sojourn i n the Maritimes a f t e r he graduated from MacDonald College i n May of 1939. The marriage he had entered into i n 1938 was not working out and by 1940 things were dismal indeed. But t h i s was a mixed curse for he began to turn to poetry with a renewed i n t e r e s t and dedication: Some r e l i e f was gained by his r e g i s t r a t i o n f o r a Master's Degree i n P o l i t i c a l Science, at M c G i l l University, but the w r i t i n g of poetry became the main outlet f or h i s misery and i t probably saved his sanity, although he did not consider himself to be a poet and was only beginning to read Auden, Spender, C.D. Lewis and Dylan Thomas. 1940 was a t e r r i b l e year for him; even h i s former convictions about the war had been shaken by Russia's treaty with the N a z i s . x ± But by the next year he was to begin to publish poetry i n publications outside the domain of the u n i v e r s i t y community. The main impetus for the poetry of t h i s period, no doubt, came from "Poetic Socialism," but i t outgrew these sources and found i t s f i r s t roots i n such poems as "Medley for Our Times" and "Old Ha l i f a x Cemetery." Despite the derivativeness of these pieces and t h e i r echoes of Elizabethan verse and Tennyson, some patterns began to emerge—patterns that were to be developed upon and re f i n e d i n the next decade. At the onset there were the weak poems centering upon the act and s i g n i f i c a n c e and forms of c r e a t i v i t y . At the end of t h i s early period poetry f i r s t 30 i s used as a vehic l e f o r statement, observation and comment. Later the poems demonstrate a drive for a more v i s u a l and poetic order. Layton was to b u i l d on th i s shaky foundation and two forces were to propel him: involvement i n the l i t e r a r y community of F i r s t Statement and his f i r s t r e a l l y i n s p i r e d and urgent poems of 1944. 31 NOTES E l i Mandel, Irving Layton, Toronto: Forum House, 1969, 9. 2 I r v i n g Layton was born Isadore Lazarovitch. " V i g i l , ' ' i n The M c G i l l i a d i n 1931 i s published under the name of Irving Lazarre. "Masquerade," published i n the F a i l t - Y e Times i n 1936 appears under the name, Irving Lazarovitch. Most of the poems which appear i n 1937-38 are published under the name Irvine Layton, a more a n g l i c i z e d version. And i t was only by 1940 with the p u b l i c a t i o n of "Old H a l i f a x Cemetery" that the poet's present nom de plume makes i t s appearance as Irving Peter Layton. The P. or Peter i s dropped s h o r t l y afterwards, but crops up as the middle i n i t i a l under which a few reviews appear i n F i r s t Statement. George E d e l s t e i n , Irving Layton: A Study of the Poet i n Revolt, M.A. Thesis, U n i v e r s i t y of Montreal, 196*2, p. 16-17. 4 E d e l s t e i n , p. 22. When Layton's poem was published i n the A p r i l 1931 issue of The M c G i l l i a d the e d i t o r , then, was David Lewis. Lewis edited the second and l a s t volume of the magazine while h i s f r i e n d K l e i n had edited the two numbers of volume one which had appeared i n March and A p r i l of 1930. E d e l s t e i n , p. 23. E d e l s t e i n , p. 43. E d e l s t e i n , p. 6. 'Edelstein, p. 27. E d e l s t e i n , p. 31. Edelstein,p. 51. E d e l s t e i n , p. 56-57. CHAPTER I I Underwater Slums: Poetry of the Forties Layton began having h i s poems published i n The Canadian Forum soon af t e r he entered M c G i l l University i n 1940 to do graduate studies i n P o l i t i c a l Science. At this time the Forum was the national magazine i n which every young w r i t e r aspired to have hi s work appear."*" In a series of a r t i c l e s and exchanges i n the "Correspondence" columns of the Forum between December 1943 and July 1944, there were various reactions to Smith's anthology, The Book of Canadian Poetry, i n which the journal's r o l e i s emphasized. And i n an appropriate l e t t e r i n the July 1944 issue Smith points oxit: The Canadian Forum i s performing an important service to the cause of a genuine and c r i t i c a l nationalism by making imaginative work of this c a l i b r e a v a i l a b l e to the general p u b l i c . When I r e c a l l that w i t h i n the l a s t two or three years you have published Birney's "David," Klein's "Autobiography," Avison's "Break of Day," Page's "The Stenographers," Gustafson's "Epithalamium i n Time of War," Anderson's "Summer Joe," and Pratt's "The Truants," I r e a l i z e that the Forum i s not only Canada's leading j o u r n a l of p o l i t i c a l opinion but a true c u l t u r a l force. Smith does not mention that the work of some of the younger poets of the F i r s t Statement group also appeared during this period. But i t i s i n th i s backdrop that Layton's poems began appearing. He was i n good company. 33 Nevertheless, i t i s i n the l i t t l e magazine a c t i v i t y i n Montreal that Layton found himself. In two a r t i c l e s Wynne Francis has outlined Layton's involvement; her l i v e l y manner evokes much of the s p i r i t of the F i r s t Statement group i n her a r t i c l e , "Montreal Poets 2 i n the F o r t i e s . " She also manages to add a few more perspectives to 3 t h i s period i n her a r t i c l e on Louis Dudek, "A C r i t i c of L i f e . " Louis Dudek and I r v i n g Layton were both students at. M c G i l l University i n 1940. Dudek worked on the Daily that year and the occasion f o r t h e i r meeting i s related by Wynne Francis: Another poet publishing i n the Daily at this time was Ir v i n g Layton. At a L i t e r a r y Society meeting i n 1940 the two men met and recognized each other as poets having much i n common.^ How Layton and Dudek then got involved i n John Sutherland's magazine i s further related i n "Montreal Poets i n the F o r t i e s . " The fortuitous occasion which brought them a l l together would not have been possible ...had not a hat-check g i r l t o l d a f r i e n d about her brother's venture into publishing. The hat-check g i r l was John's s i s t e r , Betty; the f r i e n d was the s i s t e r - i n - l a w of Ir v i n g Layton.^ In the period of Layton's enlistment i n the Canadian Army from July 28, 1942 to June 12, 1943 (he was honourably discharged from the Army because of h i s "left-w i n g " a c t i v i t i e s i n the la t e t h i r t i e s at MacDonald College) he began h i s association, with Sutherland, and probably brought Dudek into the group: During a v i s i t to a s i s t e r - i n - l a w , who was working at a restaurant, the Venus G r i l l , he had met Betty Sutherland, an a r t i s t , and spent h i s free time with her and her brother, John, a w r i t e r . ^ 34 Upon his subsequent discharge Layton threw himself into the work of the new magazine. Dudek reminisce.nt to Wynne Francis, related the role Layton assumed quite early i n the group: 'I always f e l t myself ' t h i r d . ' Sutherland was the leader and edi t o r , Layton was 'the poet 1—we a l l expected he would soon be recognized—and I was best at handling the mechanics of the p r i n t i n g press.^ Though i n hindsight Dudek may be minimizing h i s r o l e as the other poet of the group, he had already been impressed with Layton's poetry soon aft e r he had met Layton at the L i t e r a r y Society meeting i n 1940. Dudek must have been impressed with Layton's assertion and assuredness, and probably as w e l l with the authority of tone i n the f i r s t poems. C h a r a c t e r i s t i c of Dudek's i n t e r e s t i n other poets, he immediately had a project i n mind: Dudek was s u f f i c i e n t l y e n thusiastic about Layton's poetry to make i t the object of his f i r s t publishing venture. Using the f a c i l i t i e s and knowledge he had acquired at the Hayhurst Advertising Agency, Dudek set to work to produce a book of Layton's poems. The job was never completed but meanwhile the poets became close f r i e n d s . ^ Soon a f t e r , both joined Sutherland. Layton was to wait u n t i l F i r s t Statement press was to launch i t s New Writers Series i n 1945 before h i s f i r s t book was to appear. Meantime, he continued to write and publish frequently i n the group's magazine. As w e l l , the r i v a l r y , which was indeed f r u i t f u l , between this group and the Preview group, had i t s e f f e c t s . Wynne Francis relates Layton's impressions of that r i v a l r y : Not that we wanted to be l i k e them but we wanted to be as good as they were i n our own way. It made us tougher than we would have been and provoked us into working harder than ever. I s e c r e t l y read and studied Anderson's s t y l e and went back beyond i t to h i s sources and models and I gained a great deal for myself i n the process. 35 For the poets, t h i s r i v a l r y had the immediacy of a very r e a l struggle. Sutherland's trenchant c r i t i c i s m of Preview revealed the aggressive c r i t i c i n him. The r i v a l r y i t s e l f was to move Raymond Souster to speak of i t i n these terms i n h i s memorial poem, "John Sutherland 1919-1956": While bursts of our f o r t y - f i v e s shivered against the r i f l e - r a n g e ' s test w a l l , I read F i r s t Statement, your magazine k i n d l i n g a war back i n Montreal more cold-blooded than the Coventry razing, more ruthless than a Commando r a i d . A l l t h i s seemed f a r away to me on Cape Breton Island, even further i n Yorkshire the next year. When I came back to Montreal the war was over, your f i g h t i n g nearly over too.10 The s p i r i t of t h i s l i t e r a r y confrontation was to reinf o r c e Layton's own aggressiveness. I t could not have been such a novel experience for him since he had already experienced much opposition from the student body when he was w r i t i n g h i s a r t i c l e s as a student i n MacDonald College. In the meantime before Layton was to throw himself into the magazine a c t i v i t y , he had begun to publish i n the Forum. The early poems published i n t h i s journal demonstrate how he was moving into h i s own voice and r e f i n i n g the techniques he had discovered i n the l a s t poems published i n the M c G i l l Daily. Almost h a l f the poems (13 of 32) to be c o l l e c t e d i n Here and Now had t h e i r f i r s t appearance i n the Forum between A p r i l 1941 and A p r i l 1945. Two other poems published i n the Forum during t h i s period were not included i n the poet's f i r s t book. Of the two, "Debacle," published i n the A p r i l 1941 issue, has as i t s immediate backdrop the-war-time days. I t i s a rudimentary poem whose tension r i s e s from the discrepancy between what seems and what i s . 36 The long slow summers days are here Once more; the raspberries appear Like a woman's nipples; the dust Lies on the vans l i k e a fine rust. The f i r s t l i n e begins with a tinge of earthly n o s t a l g i a which acts as a p a l l i d prologue f o r a Canadian ode to summer. The ripeness the earth engenders suggest a seasonal s e x u a l i t y . Nature, made fecund by the i n s i g h t of the poet, takes on the features of a woman. But the t r a n s i t i o n s s h i f t to a suggestion of the i n e v i t a b l e decay of the " f i n e r u s t . " The "gossamer scenario" of this poem extends to take i n the "mired a l l e y s " where "the heat" l i e s i n waiting to ambush the o f f i c e workers freed "at s i x o'clock." The poorer sales g i r l s give way to the other figures of the war-time tableau: ...some, theix lackeys at the door, Compute the dividends of war, Consider wisely how and when A corner i n the f l e s h of men May be conjured. 0, I suppose There i s a beauty i n the rose That never dies. But can one praise The blood and heat of murderous days? Seeming lax and relaxed, the poet can not hold back his complaint almost r i s i n g to a rage. The summer d a i l y routine does not leave him free of h i s obsessive v i s i o n . Once again i t i s "The sun, impatient now of a l l / Nice d i f f e r e n c e " which has given him this perspective of l i g h t , of v i s i o n . This poem's pattern repeats i t s e l f i n other poems of th i s period. "Debacle" suggests the disquiet which informs the poet's v i s i o n . The looseness of t h i s poem i s bypassed i n other poems of th i s period, and a c l a s s i c tightness begins to fuse 37 the poems. When the poet can not remain content with this d i s q u i e t , t h i s u n s e t t l i n g v i s i o n of what he sees and apprehends, he goes on to write "Epitaphs" i n pitches of i n t e n s i t y and scorn. He has become the observer; and i t i s h i s eye, h i s v i s i o n which becomes the chief t o o l of h i s poetic p r a c t i c e . In the f i r s t years of Layton's association with F i r s t Statement, his poems grow in. complexity and begin to e x h i b i t the varied f i n i s h e d q u a l i t i e s which were to be h i s s t y l i s t i c hallmarks. Soon a f t e r he had met Sutherland, hi s poems begin, to appear i n F i r s t Statement. Three poems were published.in.Vol. 1, No. 9. In "House to Let," the statement i s a twist on the " c u l t i v a t e one's garden" theme: Go b u i l d y o u r s e l f a house, Something against these unseasonable t i m e s , — The puffy, l e e r i n g l i p s of old women. The unanswerable protest of a hungry c h i l d . The nakedness of men before the great t e r r o r . The smoky sun s i n k i n g down Like a s t r i c k e n charger on a b a t t l e f i e l d . There i s a s i m i l a r i t y between this poem and "Medley for Our Times." The same cen t r a l image of the house crops up. Here the house i s both a s h e l t e r and a trap, both a home and a prison. But there i s some consolation to this new s t r u c t u r e . For a f t e r completing the construction, the b u i l d e r i s t o l d to "Go out and l i s t e n to the w i n d — / The sun w i l l look d i f f e r e n t tomorrow." The e s s e n t i a l difference here i s s e c u r i t y . But i t i s the s e c u r i t y of a half-way house between the contradictions and l i m i t a t i o n s imposed by s h e l t e r and s e c u r i t y . The t i t l e of the. poem sheds l i g h t on the theme. In these early war years i n Montreal houses were d i f f i c u l t to f i n d and rent. Thus, the poem suggests that one would have to 38 go and make one's own house, so to speak. This i s almost a c a l l for i n d i v i d u a l e f f o r t . The l i t e r a l and f i g u r a t i v e house of the t h i r t i e s , which was i n disarray and decline, seems to be abandoned. There i s another a l t e r n a t i v e to the c o l l e c t i v e e f f o r t . The t h i r d poem of t h i s group, "A Jewish Rabbi," i s printed i n t a c t i n the version f i r s t published i n 1936. It suggests that Layton was not turning his back on h i s early e f f o r t s , and r e a l i z e d that t h i s l a c o n i c poem should not be abandoned. Of the three poems of this group, i t i s the most e f f e c t i v e , and the only one he was l a t e r to c o l l e c t i n his f i r s t volume. Layton's debut i n F i r s t Statement was i n the s p e c i a l poetry issue, Vol. 1, No. 12. Layton's poems appeared with Kay Smith's and Louis Dudek's and were prefaced by Sutherland's introductory essay " e d i t o r i a l " , "Three New Poets." The present issue exhibits the work of three r e l a t i v e l y unknown poets .. .. Ir.ving.Xayton i s probably known to the readers of the Canadian Forum. None of them has received any p u b l i c recognition, and even less c r i t i c a l attention. Yet each one i s producing work that may appear, i n the future, as a valuable contribution to Canadian poetry. In t h i s case some bio g r a p h i c a l facts are s i g n i f i c a n t . . . . I rving Layton i s a member of the Canadian O f f i c e r s ' T raining Corps, and i s engaged, with c h a r a c t e r i s t i c energy, i n completing a thesis f o r his M.A. degree.... A l l three have a Canadian background, and t h e i r development as poets and i n d i v i d u a l s has been t y p i c a l l y Canadian. The l a s t point i n Sutherland's a r t i c l e indicates his dedication i n encouraging native Canadian wr i t e r s to write fr.om t h e i r .experience v ^ The three poets shared /this---in .common £.lJThey. we re each i n h i s -pwn-way reajctjlng to the here and now of 39 t h e i r experience. It i s an i n d i c a t i o n of Sutherland's astuteness that as an ed i t o r and a c r i t i c he noted the sseds of Layton's development i n the early poems. In comparing Kay Smith's work and Layton's, he notes: Both poets have a moral i n t e r e s t and this urge to f i n d the symbol. Layton, perhaps, speaks with more directness and a masculine vigor, but h i s personality i s not so deeply involved i n the web. He writes a poem, s t i l l complex and mysterious, i n which nature symbols are la r g e l y absent. "Providence" seems to contain the seeds of a personal mysticism, and, i f one remembers h i s Hebraic inheritance, i t appears possible that this s t r a i n i n h i s poetry w i l l develop with time. Sutherland i s i n c o r r e c t i n h i s comment on " V i g i l " (reprinted now almost ten years l a t e r ) , f o r i t would be d i f f i c u l t to maintain that t h i s poem is devoid of personal elements. The poem may be descriptive and ima g i s t i c , but the seeds of a personal viewpoint l i e i n wait i n the imagery. Yet i n h i s own tentative way Sutherland was on the r i g h t track. Layton bears some resemblance to Abraham K l e i n . Both have a love of romantic beauty, coloured by the poetry of the Old Testament; both have a s a t i r i s t ' s pleasure i n the a f f a i r s of human beings. But whereas K l e i n was engaged i n unearthing r e l i c s of forgotten p e r s o n a l i t i e s , Layfcon only mentions the rabbi i n passing. Sutherland does pinpoint a few of the more s a l i e n t resemblances between K l e i n and Layton. Romantic beauty may be a touchstone i n Klein's Jewish rhapsodies, but i n Layton i t i s the Romantic stance and flamboyance that i s the key. Klein's Jewish personae are not Layton's. I f there i s the Hebrew i n Layton, i t i s the Hebrew resolving moral, h i s t o r i c a l and e t h i c a l dilemmas. And i n any case, i n 1943, Layton's poems on Jewish subjects were a f a r cry from Klein's early poems i n Hath Not 40 a Jew or the Poems published a year l a t e r . The s a t i r i s t i n both i s a c t u a l l y an outgrowth of t h e i r Jewish, rather than t h e i r Hebrew roots. By this Jewishness I mean the attitudes springing from the point of view of the diaspora Jew who was on the circumference of h i s society and times. The Hebraic springs from more rooted concerns, and tends to take into account more fundamental notions of time and h i s t o r y . K l e i n tended to be the more Jewish poet only because h i s i d e n t i f i c a t i o n with his own t r a d i t i o n s were p o s i t i v e on the whole. In " P o r t r a i t of the Poet as Landscape" the outsider Jew has become the poet, and i n his Z i o n i s t allegory, The Second S c r o l l , Klein's themes may be seen as v a r i a t i o n s on the theme of the parochial i t s e l f . The Insider-Outsider, Jew-Poet, i f you w i l l , i s strongly entrenched i n h i s own world. This world finds i t s e l f i n a minority p o s i t i o n i n r e l a t i o n to other c u l t u r a l worlds. The Jew (and note the Jewish p e r s o n a l i t i e s K l e i n chooses from the past, a l l of them v a r i a t i o n s on Uncle Melech), the French-Canadian, the Indian, the Poet-Adam—each i n h i s own l o c a l e , so to speak, remains exclusive, and i n a minority p o s i t i o n . I f Layton may be s a i d to have picked up on Klein's f i g u r e (and he does not as I w i l l demonstrate l a t e r ) , h i s poet figure i s not an exclusive f i g u r e , but an i n c l u s i v e one who embodies a l l aspects of the creative and the imaginative i n man. In any case, these differences and comparisons w i l l c l a r i f y them-selves l a t e r i n r e l a t i o n to "The Swimmer," and i n r e l a t i o n to Layton's drawing upon his Jewish sources i n The Black Huntsman. Layton as s a t i r i s t exposed his fellow r e l i g i o n i s t s i n a more astringent manner than K l e i n . Layton's sharper c r i t i c i s m was tempered by his p o l i t i c a l studies and concerns— 41 at the same time i t also afforded him a wider, less parochial usage of h i s Jewishness. He never i n fact rejected h i s Jewishness; neither d i d he embrace i t f u l l y . This balance and tension allowed him to grow; his e c l e c t i c i s m afforded him more scope. Sutherland had made the obvious comparison and i t would be some time before Layton's work would be seen without the mantle of K l e i n . Uncannily, Sutherland's obser-vations took account of early motifs: Layton's i n t e r e s t i s i n p o l i t i c s , and this frequently shows i t s e l f i n his poetry. "Say i t again, Brother," soon to be published iri A l e r t , i s reminiscent of Sandburg, but has more vigour and a more consistent poetry than other poems of th i s kind. "Obstacle Course" i s a fusion of the two i n t e r e s t s : fantasy i s coupled with vigorous c r i t i c i s m . In that l a s t sentence Sutherland put h i s fin g e r on a very conspicuous Jewish element common to K l e i n and Layton, and common to many Jewish a r t i s t s of the times: fantasy coupled with c r i t i c i s m . This describes accurately a mode Layton developed i n the phase of the middle f i f t i e s , and the poems of which f i r s t gave him the c r i t i c a l recognition and acclaim he deserved. But the signs of th i s kind of imagination and v i s u a l play were apparent i n "Medley f or Our Times," and i n the more r e a l i z e d poems of the f o r t i e s c o l l e c t e d i n Here arid Now. This combination of fantasy and c r i t i c i s m stems from a very Jewish s o u r c e — the a b i l i t y to face the slum or ghetto r e a l i t y and the desire to transcend i t at the same time. The discrepancy between what one faced and what one hoped f o r , afforded this humour and irony, as a kind of r e l i e f . Yet the poets managed to hold both elements together, f o r 42 without c r i t i c i s m fantasy remained merely wish-fulfilment without c l a r i t y and focus, and without fantasy c r i t i c i s m reduced i t s e l f to joylessness. Sutherland has l i t t l e i n "Three New Poets" to say about the r h e t o r i c a l devices or the formal aspects of Layton's verse. His bias was toward what goes into the poem as i t s content. "What they write i s e s s e n t i a l l y readable, and i t i s v a l i d and r e a l as poetry," i s h i s f i n a l comment. But there was l i t t l e to say about e i t h e r Dudek's or Layton's formal means. I t was only l a t e r when Dudek came into contact with Pound and Lay.ton with the Black Mountain poets that the shape and form of Layton's poems become more loose, more adaptive and organic. Sutherland's bias was to remain with Layton and i t was to be one of Layton's touchstones, as w e l l . Poetry was a whole expression; language was not to be worked on for i t s e l f alone. F i r s t Statement's viewpoint can be seen as an outgrowth of the s o c i a l realism which dominated the awareness of much of the best of English Canadian poetry i n the t h i r t i e s . What Sutherland added as.the c r i t i c of the group, and what Layton seemed to p r a c t i s e , was the emphasis on the immediate, the here and now. In t h i s respect, Sutherland was to make some cursory observations on the ro l e of "nature" i n contemporary Canadian poetry. He seems to be developing a point of view which gains prominence i n the l a t e s i x t i e s , that no Canadian poet can escape the sense of place, and that the landscape and urban environment figure as ce n t r a l concerns: 43 ...that since Canada i s an a g r i c u l t u r a l country i t i s hardly possible for the poet to avoid contact with nature. Nature not only rules great sections of our country, but i t also invades a metropolis. I t enters the heart of Montreal and s i t s down i n the form of Mount Royal. We compared Kay Smith to Dorothy Livesay, and I think that her i d e n t i f i c a t i o n with nature p a r t l y explains one's f e e l i n g that Miss Livesay i s so e s s e n t i a l l y a Canadian poet. Neither she nor Miss Smith nor I r v i n g Layton are giving us nature pure and simple; or absorbing for other purposes a p e c u l i a r l y Canadian landscape, as Earle Birney does. But t h e i r l i n k with nature i s inescapably a part of t h e i r experience of l i v i n g i n Canada. This awareness i s , at f i r s t s s l i g h t l y coloured by a s o c i a l awareness: Canada was a predominantly r u r a l land, and a land i n which landscape impinges on poetic awareness. Though he was pointing to a ce n t r a l force i n Canadian poetry at this early stage i n h i s own c r i t i c a l awareness, i t i s thoroughly imbued with a Canadian l i t e r a r y sense of context. The symbolic landscape may not be s o l e l y a Canadian l i t e r a r y motif, yet i t i s one which almost a l l Canadian poets have taken up. And this symbolic landscape crops up continuously i n Layton's work and provides the means f o r h i s major statements. Sutherland, however, does not go on to compare the sources of a r u r a l culture and an urban one, f o r the F i r s t Statement poets were to write out of a Canadian urban landscape or background, and that was the emphasis they were to give to Canadian poetry, and one which dominates the f i r s t two books of Layton and the early Dudek i n East of the City and Cerberus. The poets Sutherland was now introducing (and he and Dudek were s t i l l i n t h e i r twenties) can be seen as the f i r s t generation of Canadian w r i t e r s ; l i k e Sutherland they looked to t h e i r own experience as the f i r s t sources, and they no doubt developed themselves i n reaction 44 to Canadian l i t e r a r y sources. More than Smith, Scott and K l e i n , they forged t h e i r own idiom and turned whatever they absorbed into a r e a l " f i r s t statement." This group's emphasis, i t can not be disputed, provided a vigorous new climate i n which even Scott and K l e i n were affected. Scott's developing poems on the Canadian landscape and his s a t i r i c a l barbs, and Klein's development to the poems of. The Rocking Chair, i n small measure, owed something to the renewal which Sutherland and h i s group i n i t i a t e d — a n even more vigorous drive than the Preview group attempted. It was an i n t e -grated emphasis on the Canadian here and now and i t was a combination of Sutherland's concern as an e d i t o r and a c r i t i c , and Layton and Dudek's more creative e f f o r t s which gave a coherency and continuity to F i r s t Statement. Aiming at a l a r g e r audience than Preview, i t was only natural that they were to amalgamate with the older group and become the guiding force behind the new magazine, Northern Review. It was the energy and persistence of the younger group which c a r r i e d this movement and i t s concerns, and l a t e r c a r r i e d over i n t o the work of Contact Press, Civ/n, Delta and other a c t i v i t i e s . Sutherland was not t r y i n g to make h i s claims on Dudek and Layton exclusive. As an answer to the mock p o e t i c a l l i n e s drawn by Gustafson i n h i s anthology of 1943 (the t r a d i t i o n a l i s t s of the 19th century and the new modernists, Scott, Kennedy et a l . ) , Sutherland p r o p h e t i c a l l y sees a new beginning f o r Canadian poetry: 45 Here we have the answer to our present problem: Dudek, Layton, and Miss Smith somehow contrive to bridge the gap; they represent a fusion of modern and t r a d i t i o n a l elements. Their work i s part of an e x c i t i n g , new tendency towards unity, that i s observable also i n Contemporary Verse and i n poems appearing elsewhere i n Canada. Even i n th i s f i n a l comment i n "Three New Poets," Sutherland saw the development i n native, that i s , Canadian terms. I t was this emphasis that was the " f i r s t statement." Of the four poems which Sutherland selected to represent Layton, " V i g i l , " the poet's f i r s t published poem, had appeared before. "Providence," comprised of three rhymed quatrains, forces i t s wry statements into. inverted rhyming lines., and does not measure up to the promise Sutherland, saw i n i t . "Day" i s an ima g i s t i c poem which i s not as successful, as " V i g i l . " "Obstacle Course" may have arisen from Layton's experience i n the. O f f i c e r s ' Training Corps: Like schoolboys upon a f r o l i c , these, Whose bodies anticipate no maim, Creep forward s l y l y upon t h e i r knees For that tomorrow to clutch sans blame A Swabian's throat with f i n a l ease: Beware when grown-ups play a child's game. In t h i s poem, the scene s h i f t s to an admonishment; the poet i s observer and commentator. And as i n a l l his verse to date, he i s d e f i n i t e l y s t r i v i n g to say something, to s t a t e . I t seems as i f he has l i t t l e i n t e r e s t simply with the poetic means, with a delight only i n words. In three of these poems the statements are disturbing i n t h e i r implications: the poet's eye does not see only embroidery. In "Day", the d a i l y s o l a r death i s the "ancient m a l i s o n " — i t informs a l l of r e a l i t y . And i n "Providence, 1' i t i s the stars themselves who f i n a l l y sum up man's destiny and s i g n i f i c a n c e . But these four poems 46 do not substantiate the claims Sutherland makes for Layton's verse. It seems that h i s observations and his discussion on landscape r e a l l y apply to the poems Layton was publishing i n the Forum at this time. "Boarding House" and "Restaurant de Luxe" are two poems published i n the Forum whose imagery, form and theme suggest Layton's surer d i r e c t i o n . Though Sutherland's c r i t i c a l remarks i n the introductory essay may seem incongruous i n the l i g h t of the four poems.chosen to represent Layton, these remarks, nonetheless, uncannily apply to the other poems Layton was w r i t i n g and publishing. I have not discusse,d„Lay.tonJs poems i n aocontexfecof^ technical growth or competence f o r i n a succeeding issue of the magazine th i s became the issue of a controversy. P a t r i c k Waddington wrote a long l e t t e r " ^ analysing Layton's poems and a story, as w e l l . The crux of Waddington's complaints revolved around Layton's use of neo-Tennysonian devices and other quite outdated poetic e f f e c t s . Even Layton had to admit these.shortcomings. Yet this f i r s t of Layton's l i t e r a r y correspondence i n p r i n t demonstrates Layton's dogged s e l f -confidence. Even when Layton assents to Waddington's c r i t i c i s m s , he does so by h a l f , with tongue-in-cheek. Layton's p l a i n t i s , " I t ' s the old, o l d story of a man reading a poem or a novel and a t t r i b u t i n g h i s 12 own poverty of imagination to the. poet or author.'.' The reader i s implicated as w e l l as the c r i t i c . This p r i n t e d correspondence i s Layton's f i r s t assault on Canadian l i t e r a r y taste. Sutherland was to be more vigorous i n his attack on fellow poets and c r i t i c s , and his boldness found a p a r a l l e l i n Layton's personality. But more 47 revealing i n this instance i s Layton's self-assurance i n the face of c r i t i c i s m , and h i s b e l i e f i n c r e a t i v i t y , a l b e i t immature and awkward, over c r i t i c i s m . This exchange also revealed Layton's reproof of g e n t i l i t y i n l i t e r a r y taste. These two s t r a i n s i n Layton's reply to Waddington carry over i n F i r s t Statement's stance against the p r e v a i l i n g accepted tastes i n Anglo-Canadian l i t e r a t u r e . In the same issue then, Vol. 1, No. 16, there i s a parodic expression of this stance i n r e l a t i o n to the poets i n fashion at that time: Since Auden set the fashion, Our poets grow tame; They are quite without passion, They l i v e without blame, Like a respectable dame.... Poets are shocking, you say? V i l l o n , Baudelaire -Ho! They come gentler today; Their language most f a i r . . . Ah-ha, y o u ' l l order a pair? In order to prepare the way for the poems he was to write, Layton had to engage the p r e v a i l i n g tastes. This was i n keeping with the tenor of F i r s t Statement—aggressiveness and boldness of language and purpose. In a subsequent issue, Vol. 1., No. 19 (May 14, 1943), a l l was not merely shock t a c t i c s and abrasiveness. "Say i t Again, Brother" i s a c o l l o q u i a l v i n d i c a t i o n of Layton's stance of standing up f o r what one believes i n and expecting opposition. In t h i s case, i t i s the p o l i t i c a l overtones of the f i g h t i n Europe. In the next issue of the magazine, Layton d i r e c t s his poems to the urban slum and underworld—their very subject matter and language i s meant to shock and present a non-bourgeois point of view. In "Gonorrhea Racetrack", the v i c e of the poor feeds the r i c h eventually: 48 Outrageous That no one remembers us, Even tho' the townsfolk Grow more prosperous. In "Upper Water Street" the tone moves into the more contemporary and c o l l o q u i a l . . The fog lays her bandages over the foreheads of f a i l u r e s -they s t a r t as they recognize for the f i r s t time how p i t i f u l they are. The fog t i c k l e s h e r s e l f under the armpits and laughs inaudibly. She has c h l o r o t i c gums. Both these poems are e f f e c t i v e , i n part, because they contain echoes of other poetic voices: i n the former, echoes of Skelton or Renaissance c o l l o q u i a l verse; and i n the l a t t e r , the simple imagism of Sandburg.. In the l a t t e r case, Layton's parody functions as a c r i t i c i s m of Sandburg's almost naive.populism. For that atti t u d e i n r e a l i t y changes nothing and sentimentalizes the degraded and desperate l i v e s of the urban poor. Layton i s using another poet's means to make his statement. It i s a statement of s o c i a l awareness that i s two-pronged: at l i t e r a r y convention that f a l s i f i e s , at the urban world which i s past even p i t y i n g . In th i s regard Louis Dudek's a r t i c l e i n the same, issue, of F i r s t Statement, "Poets of Revolt... .Or Reaction?" points to the f a c t that poems as the above are not written to a p o l i t i c a l programme; they are not, i n a s t r i c t sense, poems of r e v o l t : This i s one key to the enigma of the modern revolt i n poetry. I t i s , i n f a c t , not r e v o l t , but reaction. Whether some of these poets are also reformers and s o c i a l i s t s i s beside the point; t h e i r mental s o l u t i o n i s less important than t h e i r inner c o n f l i c t s and urges. By these they 49 betray that they "do not belong." They share i n a sheltered culture which i s everywhere being beleaguered, and they are t r y i n g to think t h e i r way out of i t . Whereas Dudek sees these developments i n terms of the change i n s e n s i b i l i t y , i n the r i s e and f a l l and a p p l i c a t i o n of ideas i n r e l a t i o n to h i s t o r y , Layton's perspective i s shaped by economic and p o l i t i c a l considerations. Layton's own thinking, as expressed i n h i s a r t i c l e s i n the MacDonald College paper and i n the M c G i l l D a i l y , was not d o c t r i n a i r e . His eye was always f i x e d on what was happening i n the l a r g e r p o l i t i c a l arena around him, and he had a d e f i n i t e urge, or even need, to express his own view of things and h i s own solutions to p o l i t i c a l and s o c i a l problems, and developments. One of the men from whom Layton learned much was the B r i t i s h s o c i a l i s t and educator, Harold L a s k i . Layton was to write h i s M.A. thesis i n p o l i t i c a l science on Laski, and he contributed a short essay on him e n t i t l e d , "Harold Laski", i n the December 1941 issue of the M c G i l l student's l i t e r a r y magazine, Forge. In t h i s essay Layton points to the features of Laski's p o l i t i c a l thought that he found most relevant and cogent: Acute, and wielding a vigorous prose, he has co n s i s t e n t l y preached the by no means popular gospel that l i b e r t y i s an i l l u s i o n , save as i t i s placed i n the context of e q u a l i t y . He warns us that i f democracy i s to survive i t s margins must be continuously extended, i t s s p i r i t must reach out to inform the l i v e s of even the humblest c i t i z e n s . More shrewdly than any one e l s e , he has been a l i v e to the implications of c a p i t a l i s t democracy. I f we often speak nowadays of the marriage between capitalism and democracy, i t can be asserted that Laski has bent a l l his energies to a s k i l f u l reading of the terms of the contract. His conclusion, broadly speaking, i s that the two are no longer compatible; that sooner or l a t e r , one or the other must begin divorce proceedings. 50 The key to understanding the r e l a t i o n s h i p between Layton's s o c i a l i s t t hinking and h i s writings l i e s i n h i s understanding of Laski's r o l e as a s o c i a l thinker: His achievement l i e s not so much i n the s p e c i f i c remedies he proposed as i n the recognition of a problem which others were content to ignore or dismiss. This "recognition" i s the crux. This emphasis on awareness and recog-n i t i o n reveals that Layton was not merely i n t e r e s t e d i n formulas but also i n the man's quality, of mind. He grasped for himself the s i g n i -ficance of the ro l e that Laski played i n going beyond accepted thinking and coming up with unorthodox solutions and ways of thinking. This process i n Laski was as important to Layton as the products of h i s p o l i t i c a l researches. This t r a i t was to grow and develop i n Layton himself, and i n no small way provided him with the i n t e l l e c t u a l means to widen h i s own awareness and a p p l i c a t i o n . Layton was also taken with Laski's undoctrinaire pragmatic a p p l i c a t i o n of s o c i a l i s t and "Marxian" p o s i t i o n s . For at the conclusion o f . t h i s same essay, i n summarizing Laski's contribution to English p o l i t i c s and s o c i a l awareness, he notes: For none has.so consistently held up a mirror to the age or we l l discerned the changing contours of our s o c i a l f a b r i c . Both as an i n t e r p r e t e r and a c r i t i c of c a p i t a l i s t democracy, he has helped to prepare men's, minds f or the i n e v i t a b l e changes that the march of time has rendered necessary. It i s given to few men to help shape the outlines of. the future. As a poet, Layton did reinfo r c e his own habits of mind from t h i s " i n t e r p r e t e r " and " c r i t i c . " In f a c t , these two roles can be applied to the Layton of the f i r s t two volumes, Here and Now and Now i s the Place. In the pattern of Layton's own p o r t r a i t of Laski as i n t e r p r e t e r and c r i t i c , 51 then, may be discerned the two elements of Layton as poet, i n the f o r t i e s . In " P o l i t i c s and Poetry," published i n F i r s t Statement (Vol. 2, No. 1, August 1943), Layton made the further connection between the two roles he ascribed to Laski, which i n turn can be ascribed to him at this period. He was thirty-two at t h i s time and already i n a mould of h i s own making, shaped by h i s years at MacDonald College and h i s f i r s t two years at M c G i l l , by h i s f i r s t unsuccessful marriage, and h i s b r i e f career i n the Canadian Army. At this age i t i s safe to say. that his s e n s i b i l i t y was already beyond the point of i n i t i a l shaping. The forces which aided Layton i n w r i t i n g both p o l i t i c a l a r t i c l e s and poems were now beginning to work i n a new cohesion and coherence. In " P o l i t i c s and Poetry," Layton's apparent subject i s the renaissance of English poetry which followed i n the l a t e t h i r t i e s and early f o r t i e s soon a f t e r Auden, Spender and Lewis were established. Discussing the new poetry, Layton provides a mirror to h i s own poetry and to the poetry of the F i r s t Statement group them-selves. What he notes of the English l i t e r a r y . c l i m a t e can be applied to Layton's m i l i e u , as w e l l . In any case, the v a r i a t i o n s and designs Layton notes i n English poetry f i n d t h e i r complements i n the Canadian poet, f o r whatever he comments on has antecedents i n himself. " P o l i t i c s " supercedes "poetry" i n the t i t l e . I t i s as i f one arises from the others. Poetry f o r Layton, then, i s not produced i n . a vacuum and the context i s the changing s o c i a l and i n t e l l e c t u a l scene. Layton notes the new i n t e r e s t i n poetry i n England during these war years. The presence 52 of the war and i t s pressures upon human l i f e lead many to poetry; and the l a t t e r takes on a new dimension f o r those searching f o r meaningful human statement and communication. The poet speaking of the world he knows—the experiences of pain, fear and death has a ready-made audience i n war-time. The people have taken the poets out of the l i b r a r i e s and put them i n the bomb-shelters. Surely t h i s points to an intense i n t e l l e c t u a l ferment. To f i n d a p a r a l l e l i n English h i s t o r y fo r the present mood of earnest bewilderment one must go back to the seventeenth century. Today, as then, the i n t e l l e c t u a l f a b r i c reveals the f a m i l i a r symptoms of an age i n t r a n s i t i o n . Today, as then, the dominant note i n the p o l i t i c s , e t h i c s , r e l i g i o n and l i t e r a t u r e i s one of c r i t i c i s m and impatience f o r change. When Layton describes the central concerns of the poets of the t h i r t i e s , he i s describing as w e l l the verse and w r i t i n g he did i n the same period: P o l i t i c i a n s , l i k e Byron and Shelley before them, they (Auden, Spender etc.) i n j e c t e d i n t o t h e i r verse an urgency and a moral fervour that marked an important advance upon the poetry of the previous decade. Even when they were expressing t h e i r own maladjustments they i n d i r e c t l y exposed the c r i p p l i n g malaise of the period. It i s at th i s point that a fusion takes place between psycho-analysis and p o l i t i c s , between neuroticism and a moribund economy. . Introversion and extroversion; Freud and Marx. To summarize: the poets of the early and middle t h i r t i e s were diagnosticians and prophets; they were c r i t i c a l of the p r e v a i l i n g i n s t i t u t i o n s and temper of the people; they strove to explain to t h e i r fellowmen the implications of a co l l a p s i n g s o c i a l order. And i n pointing out the new tendencies i n English verse, Layton i s already speaking of the changes h i s own verse was to t a k e — t h e changes from the early e f f o r t s of the t h i r t i e s , to the f i r s t poems of the f o r t i e s 53 and reaching into his f i r s t major phase of the f i f t i e s . This i s a l l characterised i n h i s own work: The foregoing quotations make i t c l e a r that the newer poets are no less aware of the s o c i a l issues than the older poets were. Where, then, l i e s the difference? I think ..the difference i s one of mood, emphasis, of p h i l o s o p h i c a l temper. For the d o c t r i n a i r e Marxism of. the 30's, they have substituted a willingness to observe and experiment; for metaphysics, science; f o r . r a t i o n a l i s m , empiricism; and f o r a narrow dogmatism, an active skepticism. The search i s s t i l l f o r a formula, a synthesis, but the formula and synthesis must be broad enough to include the many facets of the human per s o n a l i t y . . This, emphasis upon personality, which borders upon the r e l i g i o u s , i s a l l the more s i g n i f i c a n t since i t d i r e c t l y contradicts the a r i d i n t e l l e c t u a l i s m of the e a r l i e r poets....Men have begun to dream again, but this time with only one eye shut: the other eye i s c a r e f u l l y focussed on the doings o f . t h e i r r u l e r s . Romanticism, yet, but wi t h i n the context of the machine age and power p o l i t i c s . It i s a l l summed up i n the f i n a l sentence which sums up the nature of. Layton's poetic e f f o r t s of the f o r t i e s and f i f t i e s . P a t r i c k Anderson's presence, and h i s editorship of Preview, s t i l l kept English poetry predominant over American as a source of influence. The whole question of t h i s influence i s not as important i n Layton's case as i n Dudek's and Souster's. The l a t t e r two kept t h e i r eyes f i x e d on the poetry being written south of the border. But Layton's essay above suggests how. F i r s t Statement was s t i l l engaged i n an i n t e r i m period i n Canadian poetry, a period when the promise of English poetry,, as outlined by Layton, began to wane quickly. With the founding of Contact.and Contact Press, the s h i f t to American poetry that John Sutherland prophesied, i n h i s polemical "Introduction" to Other Canadians f i n a l l y began to show r e s u l t s . Yet with Sutherland's continued focus on Canadian poetry and poets i n h i s reviews, a r t i c l e s 54 and e d i t o r i a l s i n F i r s t Statement, Layton could f e e l that he belonged to a native t r a d i t i o n s The w r i t i n g that he was doing had some of i t s roots i n what had been written before i n Canada: i n the poetry of the McGill Movement poets and the poems of Archibald Lampman. Layton's book review a r t i c l e on Archibald Lampman's posthumously published At the Long Sault and other new poems appeared i n the March 1944 issue of F i r s t Statement. I t demonstrates how focal the s o c i a l awareness was f o r himj^. V".. To t h i s reviewer, however, the two poems "Epitaph on a Rich Man" and " L i b e r t y " came l i k e two mortar b l a s t s . For these poems reveal an unexpected s o c i a l awareness i n Lampman. They in d i c a t e c l e a r l y enough that Lampman, an underpaid c i v i l servant, was not only intere s t e d i n observing Nature but also the shenanigans on Parliament H i l l . Which one of the f i n a n c i a l buccaneers of the day who " t i l l e d and seeded and reaped p l e n t i f u l l y From the black s o i l of human misery" Lampman had i n mind, one i s unable to t e l l ; doubtless; there were several models to hand. " L i b e r t y , " without i t s somewhat antiquated r h e t o r i c about Kings and Tyrants, might have been written by some as p i r i n g poet i n the New Masses or the Canadian Tribune. Layton l i n k s Lampman's s a t i r i c a l poems to the w r i t i n g of the left-wing magazines of the t h i r t i e s . He suggests the beginnings of a t r a d i t i o n of s o c i a l awareness and c r i t i c i s m i n Canadian poetry. This connection helped.to create antecedents for Layton's own poetry of s o c i a l s a t i r e and s o c i a l awareness; and for Dudek's and Souster's as w e l l . I t i s as i f Lampman were preparing for Layton's own c r i t i c i s m of the perennial "shenanigans". We have now moved from the p o l i t i c a l and economic perspectives of the Laski a r t i c l e — f r o m the concern with the i n t e l l e c t u a l and s o c i a l forces which aff e c t e d the poetry of the t h i r t i e s and f o r t i e s to a d i r e c t a p p l i c a t i o n of t h i s concern i n Canadian poetry. 55 In the l a s t a r t i c l e that Layton was to publish on p o l i t i c s and poetry i n t h i s period of F i r s t Statement magazine, we f i n d the f i r s t f u l l - f l e d g e d prototype to the Prefaces andForewards that were to mark Cerberus and A Laughter i n the Mind, and were to continue to be an important form of s e l f - d e f i n i t i o n and a r t i c u l a t i o n from A Red Carpet for the Sun to The Shattered P l i n t h s . In "Let's Win the Peace," published i n the May 1944 issue of F i r s t Statement, Layton applies h i s own s o c i a l i s t viewpoint to the problems that w i l l be faced once the war i s won. These ideas are c a r r i e d over from the Laski a r t i c l e and inform Layton's forecasts on the problems of the post-war world. At f i r s t , h i s i n s i g h t included focusing on the forces which l e d to war i n the f i r s t place. The roots of World War Two did not simply stem from H i t l e r and Nazism, but from the complicity of the c a p i t a l i s t Western democracies: Let us admit i t openly: we were accomplices before the crime. We helped to arm H i t l e r , and Mussolini, and H i r o h i t o , the unholy t r i n i t y against whom our statesmen now unleash t h e i r most v i o l e n t r h e t o r i c . Our own Prime Minis t e r p u b l i c l y congratulated himself that he had.secured excellent business rel a t i o n s with the Japanese—we were shipping them scrap i r o n and metals—one month before the outbreak of the war....Directly or i n d i r e c t l y we connived at, encouraged and supported every one of H i t l e r ' s aggressions. With a wink and a nod and a f i n a l handclasp under the table, we assured H i t l e r that i t was quite safe f o r him to rob and plunder h i s neighbours. The argument i s d i r e c t and aggressive. There i s no mincing of words, nor any attempt to adjust rosy-glasses over war-weary eyes. In a way, the prose and the thinking are unrelenting, and do not waver from the issue. But Layton i s not content to leave h i s analysis s o l e l y on a 56 p o l i t i c a l and h i s t o r i c a l plane. He begins to develop a larger theme by discussing the more universal human features of the r i s e and spread of the Nazi phenomenon: Let us, I say, admit a l l this openly. For unless we do so, and unless we draw the proper conclusions from the f a c t s , this f r i g h t f u l b l o o d l e t t i n g w i l l be a monstrous, un forgive able crime. I t w i l l mean a betrayal of people's hopes greater and more shameful than that which occurred a f t e r the l a s t shambles. And the consequences w i l l be even more t e r r i b l e . Instead of one H i t l e r , ten w i l l a r i s e to scourge the human race. The f a b r i c of morality w i l l be shattered forever, and tyrannies w i l l spring up beside which Fascism w i l l appear beneficent. We were b l i n d . We were i n d i f f e r e n t to human s u f f e r i n g . We were i n c r e d i b l y stupid. In t h i s indictment I include not only our leaders but also the many people who through i n t e l l e c t u a l and moral i n e r t i a allowed themselves to be misled and duped. His warnings have almost the h y s t e r i c a l urgency of a moralist and a prophet. The seriousness i s unrelenting. But Layton the w r i t e r and poet must sum things up i n a pronouncement as i f he were putti n g the f i n a l touch or statement to a poem. History some day w i l l give the f i n a l answer; f o r now i t i s s u f f i c i e n t to say that H i t l e r was the amorphous embodiment of capitalism's decay. Like some p r i m i t i v e monster, he crawled out of i t s slime and corruption. This image of an amphibious monster-insect was to crop up abundantly i n h i s poems though here i t has none of the l a t e r irony i n i t s expression. Two s t r a i n s of thought become v i s i b l e : the f i r s t i s an attempt to come to terms with p o l i t i c a l and s o c i a l e v i l and degradation: the second i s the pinning of the blame f o r t h i s almost r i t u a l slaughter on the economic order which aided and abetted the spawning of Nazism. These two s t r a i n s provide a tension i n Layton's thinking. He swings back and f o r t h between these two polar analyses, between putting the f i n g e r 57 of blame on the "system's" forces which contributed to Nazism, and the perennial aspects of the human condition and of man's nature. But these two s t r a i n s complement each other as w e l l for Layton comprehends how economics contributed to the p o l i t i c a l decisions of the leaders of the Western democracies; and at the same time he i s aware of the human propensity to e v i l , destruction and s o c i a l madness. Layton was to shed the s o c i a l i s t trappings of his viewpoint, and he was to hone the other instruments of his v i s i o n of man as the diseased s o c i a l animal, and of man's inhumanity to man, and of man's i r r a t i o n a l destructive impulses. But he was to analyze, as w e l l , the contributing forces of technology i n i t s e f f e c t on post-World War Two North American so c i e t y . His central concern remained unchanged: the paradoxical nature of man, the i n d i v i d u a l and the s o c i a l animal. In "Let's Win the Peace" he has grown beyond the more exclusive concerns of Laski. He i s aware of the r o l e of the a r t i s t i c s e n s i b i l i t y and i t s involvements with the dilemmas and tensions of the age. He i s f u l l y aware of his own role as a thinker and w r i t e r concerned with his times and with h i s t o r y f o r he underlines the a r t i s t ' s v i s i o n as a contribution i n mirroring the age. The forces of h i s t o r y and the forces i n man i n e v i t a b l y make t h e i r way in t o art and l i t e r a t u r e : A competitive society i s a society without a common ethos. Where groups and classes e x i s t , having contradictory economic i n t e r e s t s , they w i l l pursue those i n t e r e s t s with a banal f e r o c i t y . There w i l l be i n s e c u r i t y ; i n s e c u r i t y breeds fear; fear, hatred. The pattern i s as o l d as Greece and Rome. With good reason, Plato had equated Jus t i c e with s o c i a l harmony. A competitive society which hurls class against c l a s s , group against group, i s morally s i c k . It must dis i n t e g r a t e or submit to d i c t a t o r s h i p . 58 Playwrights and poets, n o v e l i s t s l i k e D, H. Lawrence and James Joyce, have given l i t e r a r y expression to the hatred and self-contempt which l i k e chlorine gas was seeping through our c i v i l i z a t i o n . Very few r e a l l y escaped i t . There was a l i t t l e corner i n people's hearts that was H i t l e r ' s before he ever started. That was the chief reason for h i s s u c c e s s — t h a t plus the heavy backing from the Ruhr i n d u s t r i a l i s t s . The l a s t sentence reveals a more r a d i c a l approach to the nature of e v i l i n man, and i t i s an admission which goes beyond mere economic or p o l i t i c a l theories. I t i s more the admission an a r t i s t would make i n the face of the destructive in.man, than the statement of a p o l i t i c a l commentator or s c i e n t i s t . I t asks f o r an imaginative leap of understanding, and i t was an altogether unorthodox approach i n Canada at that time. If one. must look beyond Laski f o r sources to Layton's statement, they are given by the poet himself. He refers to Lawrence and Joyce and he was aware of t h e i r v i s i o n of twentieth-century man. The seeds of many of his l a t e r themes were stated i n th i s essay and were to be elaborated i n book a f t e r book. Poets and a r t i s t s , then, must come face to face with a l l aspects of the human condition of our age. The poet must look into the heart of darkness. And t h i s touchstone becomes a gauge that Layton employs i n assessing the success and scope of Klein's Poems and The H i t l e r i a d . Layton's two reviews of Klein's books w i l l be taken into consideration i n a l a t e r examination of The Black Huntsman. Layton was not to publish prose a r t i c l e s or c r i t i c i s m a f t e r F i r s t Statement gave way to Northern Review. I t was with the founding of CTV/n i n the early f i f t i e s i n "Montreal that Layton was again to contribute t h i s kind of prose. 59 In t h i s essay, "Let's Win the Peace," which i s a prototype f o r the prefaces of h i s l a t e r books, Layton reveals the prophetic voice he was to develop. His insi g h t s i n t o human nature coupled with an awareness and concern with the dilemmas of h i s age point to a role he was to assume with greater c l a r i t y and complexity. It i s as i f he were heeding W i l f r e d Cwen's r e a l i z a t i o n that the coming of technological and mechanized war, a new era would be ushered i n : A l l a poet can do today i s warn. That i s why the true Poets must be truthful.13 This was to be Layton's own measure of poetic s i g n i f i c a n c e and relevance. He had now stepped outside the confines of the merely aesthetic and l i t e r a r y . He was to write with an ambitious i n t e l l e c t u a l range, and with a consciousness that would be wider than that of e i t h e r of h i s two compatriots i n Cerberus. The range of i n t e r e s t of these three poets becomes apparent i n that l a t t e r book's prefaces, and w i l l be examined i n that context. By about the time the l a s t of these prose pieces was written, Layton's poems had begun to grow i n complexity and were e x h i b i t i n g a f i n i s h e d q u a l i t y . From one of the many a r t i c l e s w r itten about the poet, we can glean that an important event happened to him i n 1944, an event which he has continuously underlined with the passing years. Layton was w r i t i n g short s t o r i e s f o r F i r s t Statement and a few poems. The l a t t e r had been heavy going; his f i r s t wife had been so alarmed to watch him mumbling over the construction of a poem that she had run f o r help. Suddenly two poems, "The Swimmer," and "DeBullion Street," simply wrote themselves. "The l i n e s j u s t came, so e a s i l y , " he says. From his reading of the l i v e s of great poets, Layton knew that this psychos-phenomenon was common to a l l of them. He decided, with j u b i l a t i o n , what he was: A poet. 60 June Callwood's a r t i c l e was written i n that flush of p u b l i c i t y which followed the p u b l i c a t i o n of A Red Carpet for the Sun. Published i n February 1960, i t does relate the germ of the event, yet i t i s overwritten. Edel s t e i n relates more accurately what transpired that day, and h i s version was written a f t e r three extensive interviews with the poet i n the spring of 1962. On a hot summer day, i n 1944, Betty Sutherland, Layton, and Louis Dudek and a companion drove to the Indian Reservation of Caughnawaga. This innocuous p i c n i c proved to be one of the most important days i n Layton's l i f e . . The events of that day triggered a chain of thought which germinated i n a poem that Layton c a l l e d "The Swimmer." He wrote the poem while on the beach and, when i t was completed—for the f i r s t time i n h i s l i f e he had no qualms about hi s creative a b i l i t i e s as a poet.-'--' It seems apparent that Layton was bent on being a poet even before t h i s epiphany. But f i n a l l y h i s own i n s e c u r i t y was d i s p e l l e d ; i t was now a matter of deep b e l i e f and f a i t h i n himself that i t was h i s ' c a l l i n g ' to be a poet. This i n s e c u r i t y and concern with h i s f u l f i l l i n g the r o l e of the poet may not be apparent i n the e a r l i e r poems he published i n F i r s t Statement. In the "Preface" to The Laughing Rooster Layton gives h i s own version of the "creative process." He also relates the impressions of that experience of that f i r s t donne poem, that f i r s t ecstasy of i n s p i r a t i o n : Though I had composed a considerable quantity of verse while I was at the u n i v e r s i t y , i t i s only with the w r i t i n g of "The Swimmer" that I r e a l i z e d the poet's vocation might be mine. I had taken my wife to the beach at Caughnawaga where we spent the morning and the b e t t e r part of the afternoon. A f t e r we had returned home I went out f o r a walk along St. Catherine Street and turned into a restaurant for a cup of coffee. When I was seated at the table, without warning a succession of images, induced no doubt by the day's experiences, threw my mind— 61 there's no b e t t e r way I can put i t — i n t o a l u c i d turmoil. The images were accompanied by an i n s i s t e n t rhythm that seemed to be scouring my innermost s e l f f o r words and phrases to attach i t s e l f to or l i f t up from my buried consciousness and carry forward i n i t s i r r e s t i b l e sweep. Perhaps that's a l l that rhythm r e a l l y i s — t h e sound we hear when ideas and memories are fused and the past takes on the s t a r t l i n g immediacy of the present. Rhythm i s the sound we hear when time i s wiped out; when there's no past or future, but only NOW. Luckily I had a p e n c i l with me. I grabbed the napkin and s p i l l e d the ent i r e poem onto i t i n a mood of such intense concen-t r a t i o n , the restaurant and a l l i t s noises were completely b l o t t e d out from my awareness. Nothing existed f o r me at the time except the words I saw forming on the napkin: an i r r e g u l a r black s t a i n whose magical growth gave me a sensation of almost unbearable ecstasy and release. These three versions underline the importance and s i g n i f i c a n c e of this event i n Layton's l i f e and w r i t i n g . But the surprise and rev e l a t i o n of th i s poem's w r i t i n g i s not merely l i m i t e d to Layton's f i r s t instance of genuine i n s p i r a t i o n . The poem i s a key poem to the body of Layton's poetry. I t i s h i s f i r s t i n s p i r e d v i s i o n , and the poem i t s e l f i s about the creative process and the poet. I t i s about poetry i t s e l f , and as such i t points to the c e n t r a l theme and preoccupation. Milton Wilson i n "Klein's Drowned Poet" l i n k s this poem with Klein's " P o r t r a i t of the Poet as Landscape." It would not be accurate to see "The Swimmer" " l i k e a redevelopment of Klein's ' P o r t r a i t . " ' ^ F i r s t l y , "The Swimmer" was published i n the Dec. '44-Jan. '45 issue of F i r s t Statement (Vol. 2., No. 2), "We Have Taken The Night" (Vol. 2., No. 6), "Jewish Main Street" and " A p r i l " (Vol. 2., No. 8.), and these already exhibited the cohesion of metaphor and statement which miraculously fused i n "The Swimmer". In these poems i t i s possible to see some of the 62 elements which preceded the l a t t e r poem, but which also prepared the way for i t s i n s p i r e d composition. A l l the signs were there already, and the spark of an experience or an i n s p i r a t i o n brought them to a f l a s h . Klein's poem ( f i r s t published as " P o r t r a i t of the Poet as a Nobody") f i r s t appeared i n F i r s t Statement issue of June-July '45 (Vol. 3, No. 1). Klein's poem i n imagery and construction i s r a d i c a l l y d i f f e r e n t from Layton's. It i s a more e x p l i c i t poem on the poet, and the water imagery i s not the only predominant feature of the poem. That Layton's poem appeared f i r s t i s no conclusive proof that i t was not influenced e i t h e r by Klein's or by Klein's proximity to Layton. Both these poets may have bandied the ideas i n t h e i r poems i n conver-sa t i o n . The same image may have been i n the a i r between them, and i n any case, both poets knew each other w e l l enough f or such cross-f e r t i l i s a t i o n of image and symbol. The e s s e n t i a l difference i s that Layton's poem springs from a place, from the l o c a l e of the beach he names i n h i s account of i t s w r i t i n g . I t has many of the same features of imagery and construction as "Debacle," for example, which appeared i n the A p r i l 1941 issue of The Canadian Forum. In t h i s l a t t e r poem the images become signs, and the poeti c imagination organizes them unconsciously into a symbolic pattern which y i e l d s i t s own statement. E s s e n t i a l l y , t h i s makes Layton's poem d i f f e r from K l e i n ' s . And i t also disproves, i n some measure, Wilson's claim and h i s reading of Layton's drowned poet as a gloss on K l e i n . It may have been that Layton's poem p r e c i p i t a t e d K l e i n ' s , f o r Layton may have read that poem to a l l and sundry i n those weeks a f t e r i t s composition i n the summer of 1944. Layton's preoccupation with the poet fi g u r e and with the creative process 63 or poetry was to grow and K l e i n was to move on to his theme of the r e b i r t h of language and poetry i n the new Zion of The Second S c r o l l . Is this preoccupation which they both shared, yet developed i n d i f f e r e n t ways, also a function of other Jewish Canadian poets as Mandel or Cohen? I t can be argued that t h i s heritage of themes did carry over into the l a t t e r two poets and had t h e i r e f f e c t on the generation of poets that were to spring up i n the s i x t i e s . In Mandel's work, poetry as oracular speech staves off madness (An Idiot Joy). And i n Cohen, poetry as psalm or prayer i s a means to reaching a state of grace (The Spice Box of Earth, B e a u t i f u l Losers). In a l l four, poetry and language hold unique places; and i n no small part this stems from a Jewish reverence f o r language. As John Sutherland notes i n the e d i t o r i a l to the same issue of F i r s t Statement that "The Swimmer" appeared i n , much had happened i n Canadian poetry i n 1944. Gustafson had prepared another Penguin anthology, Smith's The Book of Canadian Poetry had appeared, as w e l l as volumes by P r a t t , Livesay, K l e i n , Smith ;and Gustafson, Speaking of these books, Sutherland's observations can w e l l characterize Layton's f i r s t book as w e l l : It i s doubtful i f there has ever been a time when so many important books by Canadian poets were published i n a s i n g l e year. The new volumes make i t p l a i n that the modern poetry movement, which had i t s beginnings i n Canada during the t h i r t i e s , i s gathering fresh impetus. To a greater or; l e s s extent, a l l of these poets are occupied with problems of a s o c i a l kind. A l l of them are exploring the resources of a s t y l e that i s , i n one case, more dire c t and vigorous,and, i n another case, more complex 64 and a n a l y t i c a l than anything we have had i n previous Canadian poetry. Other writers w i l l regard the appearance of t h e i r work as an encouraging sign that the Canadian audience i s at l e a s t ready to receive progressive w r i t i n g . But there are many new writers i n Canada today., producing s i g n i f i c a n t work, who have no opportunity to publish t h e i r poetry. I t i s i n order to supply an outlet f o r them that F i r s t Statement has decided to publish poetry i n book form during the coming year. Each volume w i l l be devoted to the work of a younger w r i t e r and w i l l consist of representative sel e c t i o n s from h i s poetry. I f finances permit, we hope to extend the scheme l a t e r on to include the p u b l i c a t i o n of representative prose. Work i s now going forward on the books of poetry. A s e l e c t i o n of important work by Irving Layton w i l l appear during the l a t t e r part of January. Layton's Here and Now appeared l a t e r i n the year and was the f i r s t volume i n the press's New Writers Series. What then did Layton put together f o r himself i n Here and Now? It was an attempt to s e l e c t and give order to the poetry he was publishing since 1936. The next two books can be considered i n t h i s l i g h t as w e l l ; they are also attempts at defining and redefining the work he had accomplished to that point. The sense of consolidation marks a l l three f i r s t books. But without this consolidation Layton might not have b u i l t up the body of early work that he did, and he might not have been able to continue with h i s growth and prepare himself f o r the burst of poetry that characterized the early and middle f i f t i e s . It was as i f he were preparing h i s spring-board. And f i f t e e n years l a t e r Milton Wilson was able to pinpoint this pattern:. Layton belongs among those not uncommon poets who grow by discovering with s u r p r i s e , delight and horror what t h e i r previous poems r e a l l y meant and then w r i t i n g new ones to prove i t . The process can go on forever, as the images and themes renew themselves i n poem a f t e r 17 poem. ' 65 Yet .the., pat-.ternr.wasinot as: clear as Wilson would have lt..-gTho"ugh with s e l e c t i v e hindsight i t i s possible to array a number of poems to prove the point. It would be i n keeping with the character of the F i r s t Statement group that Layton's f i r s t c o l l e c t i o n of thirty-two poems should be regarded as almost a poetic manifesto on what poetry should be. As f a r as subject matter i s concerned, Souster's subsequent book i n the s e r i e s , When We Are Young, and Dudek's Ryerson Press book East of the Cit y, are more i n keeping with an observant urban realism. In a polemical a r t i c l e d i r e c t e d against the Preview group Louis Dudek underlined the perspective of poetic method and v i s i o n : F i r s t Statement does not deny that poetry can express matters which are not i n themselves e s s e n t i a l l y poetry: matters geographical, s o c i o -l o g i c a l , etc. It even encourages l i t e r a t u r e which w i l l r e f l e c t the atmosphere and currents of Canadian l i f e , as a l l good w r i t i n g i n Canada must do. But i t -underlines the "reacting honestly... f i r s t hand," -I Q as the chief concern of the p o e t . x o The assertion i n the t i t l e of the book, Here and Now, suggests a poetry which deals with immediate experience i n a context of what i s before the poet and what world he moves i n and l i v e s . What was not added to the emphasis i n the t i t l e i s i t s urban stress and i t s i m p l i c i t drive to realism. Layton's locus i s Montreal. But though Dudek's comments above and the t i t l e of the c o l l e c t i o n suggest one thing, the actual poems give a d i f f e r e n t impression from what readers of F i r s t Statement may have expected from t h i s f i r s t s e l e c t i o n from the w riters bent on the "native" t r a d i t i o n , that i s , on the p a r t i c u l a r . The subject of many of the poems i n Layton's book spring 66 from the urban ghetto Layton grew up i n — t h e Jewish quarter of Montreal, the surrounding slums, and the rest of the habitable downtown of that c i t y . But i n e f f e c t were these poems attempts at urban realism i n poetic form? Layton's account of his f i r s t i n s p i r e d poems, "The Swimmer," and "DeBullion S t r e e t , " already suggest that he was early impressed with the image of the poet, h i s own self-image as poet, and with the process of c r e a t i v i t y . "The Swimmer" i s the key poem to th i s period of Layton's w r i t i n g . The predominant movement i n th i s poem springs from the swinging to and f r o motion of opposites; and th i s holds as w e l l for the organization of imagery, f o r the flow of syntax, and the underlining v i s u a l pattern of perception. The swimmer himself i s the embodiment of the amphibian s p i r i t who i s able to move i n two elements, i n two worlds. Being a man and a landed creature, his foray into the water i s an act of violence. The plunge of the swimmer i s both a declaration and act of war; i t i s h i s f i r s t aggressive stage as the diver. When he makes the plunge the "snake-heads" of the waves s t r i k e momentarily. They herald the swimmer's disruption of a unity, a cycle. Yet what has transpired i n th i s f i r s t stanza has been set against the s p e c i f i c time of day: the f o r e c l o s i n g afternoon, the time of the meeting or merging of opposites, of day and night. In th i s f i r s t scene the swimmer has plunged from a r a f t , a man-made i s l a n d ; and his flo w e r l i k e act of plunging has opened "spray c o r o l l a s . " The plunge i s suggestive of a sudden organic b e a u t y — a w i l l to power coupled with a w i l l to beauty. The "snake-heads" then seem to suggest the m u l t i p l i c i t i e s suddenly being s t i r r e d up as i f they were heralds of the beginning of some kind of journey of discovery. 67 While on one hand the poem i s d i r e c t i n g our attention to a p a r t i c u l a r scene, the images selected and t h e i r symbolic overtones suggest that we are also looking upon a symbolic action i n a symbolic landscape or water-scape. Aft e r the i n i t i a l shock of the plunge, the swimmer emerges. He i s f l o a t i n g now, that i s , within, yet upon the surface of the water. He i s "imminent upon the water." He i s i t s blossomed flowers, i t s "weed with marvellous bulbs." As he f l o a t s there l i g h t and sound seem to come to him with a "sharp p a s s i o n " — t h e numinous senses are almost p e r s o n i f i e d . Yet light.and sound would be the two closest senses to poetry: the l i g h t of imagery and v i s i o n , and the sound of words and music. Yet Layton does not go to these l i m i t s of i d e n t i f i c a t i o n ; he i s content to leave the elements i n the poem, i n s o l u t i o n , as i t were, rather than c r y s t a l l i z e too neatly imagery and symbols, theme and statement. The "gonad sea", source of f e r t i l i t y and s e x u a l i t y , i s also the source for these opposites of l i g h t and sound, v i s i o n and song. With the image of "the Poles", the swimmer becomes next an embodiment of the world, a man-world fig u r e image. But the suggestions prove ambiguous; the "Poles" may be the actual poles, North and South, or the head and feet of this swimmer—in a l l cases, complementary opposites, as might be expected. To climax t h i s s h i f t i n scene the "bright cockle-shells about h i s ears" become auras, and emblems of a r t . They provide the f i n a l stroke to t h i s strophe and f i t i n w e l l , d e s c r i p t i v e l y and symbolically, into this mosaic p o r t r a i t of the swimmer on the water. 68 The v i s i o n i n stanza two i s momentary i n keeping with the s h i f t i n g scenes and backdrops to this poem's imagery. The s h i f t s suggest another underlining theme which i s to be underscored i n the l a s t stanza. The theme of constant f l u x and change—the world of becoming which the swimmer moves with and i s transformed b y — f i n d s i t s appropriate element i n water. By stanza three we r e a l i z e that the swimmer has no face, f o r he i s constantly face down upon the water. And i f h i s features become apparent, they are part of a rear-view p o r t r a i t of him. Back of the head, back, buttocks and legs have provided the d e t a i l s f o r t h i s progression from flower to coc k l e - s h e l l s . Yet th i s v i s u a l progression, i n i t s various angles and focuses, becomes a kaleidoscope. The perspective of v i s i o n s h i f t s between close-ups, fade outs, and long shots. And the rhythm and movement of t h i s v i s i o n complements the moving mosaic. It i s a l l b u i l t up to the end of the second stanza i n which the cockle-shells also become the apotheosis of a r t : holiness and celebration: c h r i s t and a r t i s t . They break "about the ears", the organs which receive sound and language. And i n the l a s t stanza i n the poem, the eyes figure as the other dominant organs. The swimmer has no face f o r he has the impersonality of an archetypal f i g u r e . From t h i s l a s t momentary climax "about the ears" the swimmer's next phase Is immersion. This penetration of the water i s not only one progression downwards through l e v e l a f t e r l e v e l of discovery or journey. "He dives, f l o a t s , goes u n d e r " — i t i s a spasmodic movement i n keeping with the ambivalence and oppositional tug of war, the give and take already established i n the poem. This going under may be 69 Nietzschean and ambiguous f o r the swimmer "goes under l i k e a t h i e f . " His going i s stealthy and he may f e e l g u i l t y about t h i s foray. He may also be s t e a l i n g h i s way i n t o a sanctum. For he i s an outsider to this element and his entrance has the connotations of the c r i m i n a l : one who goes i n from the outside i n a forbidden or secret manner. As an archetypal a r t i s t f i g u r e , the swimmer's movement back to the unconscious water world s t i r s a primeval urging i n him: "his blood sings to the t i g e r shadows." The elemental darkness of the depths throws him back to an animal charade. The t i g e r shadows i n himself are deeply rooted i n h i s blood, h i s own coursing water element. He moves through and beyond t h i s encounter with the animal unconscious to the more Eden-like "scentless greenery that leads him home." His return i s i n s t i n c t u a l f o r he i s "a male salmon." S i g n i f i c a n t l y , at t h i s point i n h i s journey into this submergent element, he goes "down f r e t t e d stairways/Through underwater slums." I t i s as i f he were returning to an elemental urban world where anxiety and poverty represent the l a s t refuge, the f i n a l t e r r i t o r y of home, the restin g and spawning place. Since these "underwater slums" are the end of the journey down the descending stairway, they f i n d t h e i r counterpart i n the rest of Layton's poem i n Here arid Now. For the here and now i s t h i s underwater slum as both a r e a l and imagined place. From the "scentless greenery" the swimmer has reached a negative world, the urban opposite to the former. I f we look at the stages of the swimmer's immersion we see a movement from the numinous "imminent" world of stanza two. The movement continues through the stages of stanza three to the rock bottom v i s i o n of poverty and deprivation of the "underwater 70 slums." But t h i s i s as f a r as the swimmer goes down; i t i s as f a r as Layton goes i n this poem as a map of where the other poems i n h i s f i r s t book also proceed. The poem,then, i s a pro j e c t i o n of Layton's poetic world and also of h i s poetic d i a l e c t i c a l methods and means. The fourth stanza, however, must be taken into: consideration, as w e l l . The hiatus between the t h i r d and f i n a l stanza i s f i r s t of a l l a temporal one. The swimmer i s now upon the beach. I t i s as i f he blacks out at the "underwater slums".and could not go further. And so he must return to shore, his amphibian nature l i m i t i n g h i s endurance. Yet as he went "down f r e t t e d stairways" he was i n e v i t a b l y swimming back-to the shore i t s e l f . This ambiguity may be i n t e n t i o n a l , but i t i s an ambiguity which d e l i m i t s . A f t e r reaching h i s farthest depths, the v i s i o n there may have "stunned" him. For on the beach, on the s e c u r i t y of land and f i x e d r e a l i t y , he can only remember those f i s h - l i k e vestiges and the f e e l i n g of being a water creature. He now must create images of h i s landed predicament: "gestures of s e l f -absorption," drawings on the sand. Since he can not remain forever i n the imaginative World of the unconscious where he played and held the opposites at bay, h i s narcissism extends from the drawings upon the sand to the anthromorphic v i s i o n of nature: "the s k u l l - l i k e beach." In t h i s sense, t h i s a c t i v i t y i s symbolic of the poet's return from the world of the imagination, from the e c s t a t i c embrace and play with the contradictions of i l l u s i o n and r e a l i t y . His a c t i v i t y on the beach complements h i s a c t i v i t i e s i n the water element of the f i r s t 71 three stanzas. But these drawings upon the sand are the very products of h i s immersion; they are the forms of art upon the " s k u l l - l i k e beach": art recreated i t s e l f i n a death of s o r t s . The death i s manifold: death of the swimmer's recent foray into: the water; the end of h i s return to the unconscious and memory; the very death-like q u a l i t y of art as the r e c a p i t u l a t i o n of experience. For the "gestures of s e l f - a b s o r p t i o n " suggest that the swimmer poet absorbs himself i n what he i s and what he does: art i s about art f i n a l l y and poetry about poetry. C r e a t i v i t y devolves upon I t s e l f i n every way. And t h i s death or s t a s i s upon the beach leads the swimmer int o an i d e n t i f i c a t i o n with the poet-observer who has written this poem. The swimmer's " i n s t i g a t e d eyes" see another s a c r i f i c e i n the emptying of the sun upon the water, the death of a larger force or god i n t o the u n i v e r s a l f l u x represented by the water. And the water i t s e l f by now becomes, i n those eyes and that self-absorbed s p i r i t , another extension of the swimmer.. The water i t s e l f takes on the v u l n e r a b i l i t y of the swimmer and of man i n the face of transience, the inexorable movement of. time, and growth and aging: And the l a s t wave romping i n To throw i t s boyhood upon the marble sand. It i s as i f the poet were f i n a l l y throwing i n h i s boyhood. His f i n a l awareness of transience is. a.far cry from that f i r s t assertion and plunge at the beginning of the poem. The boyhood thrown upon the sand may also represent the energy and bravado of the swimmer of stanza one f i n a l l y l o s i n g uuhims.elf against the immutable sand,, upon which the drawings may now be disappearing at the onslaught of the waves. 72 The marks of the a r t i s t upon the unchanging b e a c h — h i s signs and symbols—are washed away by the day's " l a s t wave" of time and flux. The wave now plunges against the land*- The wave i s another swimmer of s o r t s , and the i d e n t i f i c a t i o n s complete themselves. The v i s i o n of art and l i f e expressed i n that l a s t stanza does not f u l l y emerge as t r a g i c . I t i s a more c y c l i c a l v i s i o n of nature and consciousness and art, and i t represents the seeds of Layton's major metaphysical poems of the f i f t i e s and s i x t i e s . And i t i s a good i n d i c a t i o n of the scope and ambition Layton was to e x h i b i t In h i s l a t e r work. But meantime the f i r s t three stanzas present imaginatively and accurately Layton's p o e t i c a l "here and now" and "now i s the place" of the f o r t i e s . "The Swimmer" underlines Layton's continuous c e n t r a l concern with the poet and with c r e a t i v i t y . The poet i n the "underwater slums" takes on many disguises. In many ways he i s the "Newsboy" i n the poem of that t i t l e : Neither t r i b a l nor t r i v i a l he shouts From the c i t y ' s center where tramcars move Like stained b a c i l l i across the eyeballs; At the heart of t h i s city-s'cape disease, i l l n e s s , and perversion breed. The newsboy's role i n the universal metropolis as one of the poet figures i s multifaceted. This guise of the poet as newsboy lends i t s e l f to d i f f e r e n t guises, a l l f u n c t i o n s : o f the poet i n the urban technological world of the mid-twentieth century. For he i s "a Joshua before t h e i r w a l l s , " "The Z e i t g e i s t ' s too pu b l i c i n t e r p r e t e r / A voice multiplex and democratic." This voice hawking papers takes a l l the contradictions of the urban world i n t o i t s e l f and becomes a 73 p r o j e c t i o n of a l l of i t s aspects. What he pronounces i s what the papers proclaim: the s u r r r e a l j u x t a p o s i t i o n of violence, love, upheavals personal and s o c i a l — a n d cosmic, as w e l l , as i n "The Swimmer." This ju x t a p o s i t i o n provides the tableau to Layton's urban "underwater slums" i n Here arid Now. In each of h i s i d e n t i t i e s the newsboy assumes the various roles of the poet figure. In. the f i r s t stanza as the Joshua c i r c l i n g the people sporing i n composite buildings he i s the poet as destroyer and nay-sayer. His next role i s as the "public i n t e r p r e t e r " and recorder of events,, c h r o n i c l e r of a l l classes, and groups. In the t h i r d stanza he "domesticates d i s a s t e r : and i s the tamer of t r a g i c and destructive r e a l i t y ; the poet who speaks of these matters and makes man come to terms with the i r r a t i o n a l and destructive by naming them. And i n the l a s t stanza, he i s not r e a l l y the poet as prophet but i s the mover of men's minds and the unacknowledged shaper of t h e i r times. But he also provides the imaginative extensions by which men can be i n s p i r e d by entry i n t o unknown states of consciousness and experience. And t h i s l a s t role i s defined by the poet's pro j e c t i o n of the contradictions of existence and r e a l i t y , f o r "his d i a l e c t i c s w i l l assault the b r a i n . " His task takes on the aggressiveness c h a r a c t e r i s t i c of modern urban l i f e . He takes on the criminal and martial energies and commits aggressions i n the imagination and s p i r i t s of men. Yet t h i s r o l e has about i t the suggestion of the magician who can bring into play e i t h e r good or e v i l , or the creative and the destructive. His d i a l e c t i c s take on the tension of the age, but i n a r i t u a l cloak as w e l l : 74 Contrive men to voyages or murder, Dip the periscope of t h e i r p u b l i c l i v e s To the green l e v e l s of a c i d i c caves; Fever t h e i r health, or heal them with ruin, Or with l i e s dangerous as a l e t t e r : F i n a l l y to enwrap the season's cloves, Cover a somnolent face on Sundays. He i s the newsboy as poet i n the roles of black and white magician, healer and shaman, deceiver and p r i e s t : the d i a l e c t i c s and masks of Layton's image of the poet. "Newsboy" stands as the opening poem to Layton's f i r s t book. This poem prepares the way f o r the other thirty-one poems of this c o l l e c t i o n , and also prepares f o r the range and categories of Layton's subsequent poetry. In l i e u of an Introduction t h i s poem serves as an 'ars poetica' o u t l i n i n g the d i a l e c t i c means and the various subjects of poetry. It also summarizes what we can expect i n t h i s book: the emphasis of theme and the device of the poet figure as the ce n t r a l persona of Layton's body of work. It i s no accident then that the book closes with the s a t i r i c a l , "The Modern Poet." The poems of Here arid Now are sandwiched between "Newsboy1 and the l a t t e r poem, with "The Swimmer" providing the focus to the center of the book, along with i t s complement, "DeBullion Street." These four poems provide the pattern of i n t e r p r e t a t i o n of Layton's v i s i o n and poetic. Layton's use of the poet f i g u r e i s not a r i g i d one. It i s an i n c l u s i v e persona who embodies a l l aspects of the human condition. As a means of emphasis, i t provides the most useful l i t e r a r y t o o l and device f o r gauging Layton's growth and development. The r e d e f i n i t i o n s and recastings of t h i s poet figure i n Layton's key poems throughout h i s 75 career suggest his evolving themes and the success and refinements of hi s c r a f t . "DeBullion Street" i s a f i n e l y wrought poem about the "underwater slums" of the newsboy's " c i t y ' s center." It i s i n that part of the c i t y ' ...where tramcars move Like stained b a c i l l i across the eyeballs; Where people spore incomposite buildings From t h e i r p r o t e c t i v e gelatine of doubts, Old i l l s , and incapacity to love... ("Newsboy") Ed e l s t e i n provides the biographical background which accounts, i n some ways, for the reductive imagery in.the above passage—imagery which was to carry over i n t o the poem about DeBullion Street, another notorious r e d - l i g h t s t r e e t i n the area Layton grew up i n : In 1926 (when Layton was fourteen) the Lazarovitch family moved from St. E l i z a b e t h Street'to City H a l l Street, where Mrs. Lazarovitch again opened a small grocery store. They had moved away from the "red l i g h t " d i s t r i c t , although City H a l l Street had i t s share of p r o s t i t u t e s , to a s l i g h t l y b e t t e r l o c a l e . As a c h i l d , Layton had been contin-uously warned that a c e r t a i n type of woman i n his neighbourhood was not "respectable." The p r o s t i t u t e became symbolic of forbidden and mysterious p e r i l s which were to be avoided i n the same manner as the name of God was forbidden, but there were no connotations of e v i l i n the word "prostitute."19 Layton describes the d i s t r i c t i n another story, "Piety," published i n the l a s t issue of F i r s t Statement, Vol. 3, No. 1 (June-July '45). He outlines the way the immigrant population s h i f t e d and how t h e i r moving s t i l l l e f t them within the confines of the ghetto: 76 They were immigrants, the Karpal family, recently come from G a l i c i a . The house which they tenanted was the shabbiest and most ri c k e t y i n that s t r e e t of shabby and rickety houses. It had a d o l e f u l , thrown-together appearance and when i t rained the f l o o r s and c e i l i n g s wetted simultaneously. Damp and cold i n the winter, i n the summer t h e i r dwelling became a dangerous, s u f f o c a t i n g furnace. And ours, a red-bricked, stunted b u i l d i n g , was not much b e t t e r . The f i r s t wave of immigrants from Eastern Europe had broken against Ontario Street and as i t receded i t dug narrow channels; mean, dusty, refuse l i t t e r e d streets l i k e St. Dominique, Sanguine and St. E l i z a b e t h . Running p a r a l l e l to them, Cadieux St. had had i t s name for d e l i c a t e reasons changed to DeBullion; nevertheless the whorehouses were l e f t untouched. The imagery i n "DeBullion Street" i s suggestive of two shapes: openings and closings, holes and s l i t s . The objects observed on t h i s s t r e e t suggest one or the other. The movement of openings and closings suggests the pulse of DeBullion Street. Suddenly a c t i v i t i e s open to view and close as quickly. Images of squinting and openings abound from "inverted b e l l - j a r s , " " t i n y moons," "A red l i g h t w i nks/viciously," to "narrow s l i t s " and "the barricaded door." This underlining movement i n the imagery l i n k s up with the unspecified acts of i l l i c i t sex and perversion. Though this slum world i s not a healthy one, r e s o l u t i o n i s found i n the marriage of heaven and h e l l : the mating of the r e p t i l e and the v i r g i n . The self-righteous bourgeois are responsible for the degradation: Where those bleak outposts of the virtuous The corner mission and the walled church grow Like hemorrhoids on the c i t y ' s anus. The mission and the church are represented as t i g h t l y enclosed structures not open to the Baudelairean f i n a l e : 77 0 r e p t i l i a n s t r e e t whose scaly lims Are crooked stairways and the grocery store, Isolate, i s your dreaming h a l f shut eye: Each v i r g i n at the barricaded door Feels your tongue-kiss l i k e a b u t t e r f l y . The f a i r y t a l e r e p t i l e has not been roused and slumbers. That r e p t i l e element i n DeBullion Street (the amphibian again) does not f u l l y r i s e to transform i t s ugliness. I t has an attachment and a t t r a c t i o n for the v i r g i n , the untried and the innocent which may be a c o r r e l a t i v e f o r the poet who finds this r e p t i l e of ugliness appealing. The poet's reaction then i s one of a f l i r t a t i o n with degradation for the v i r g i n s are receptive to the tongue-kiss. The k i s s (or the poem) contains a beauty and v i t a l i t y of i t s own and almost transforms the s i t u a t i o n , f o r the b u t t e r f l y i s symbolic of a r e s u r r e c t i o n and a new springing to l i f e . DeBullion Street may have i t s features of ugliness yet the poet i s drawn to i t s degradation; and i n t h i s mating, something regenerative emerges. The p o e t i c redeems the ugly and banal "underwater slums" as the newsboy redeems the " c i t y ' s center." In "Words Without Music" that animal presence that l i e s l u r k i n g f i n a l l y breaks the bounds. In the imminence of destruction and madness of t h i s war poem, ban a l i t y contains within i t s e l f s t r a i n i n g , compelling destructive urges. The t r a i n f u l l of s o l d i e r s going to the t r a i n i n g camp becomes the odyssey of the modern world i n which men have to repress t h e i r sexuality and human energy to the breaking point: The senses Run l i k e swift hares along the fences; These are the f i r e lands and t h i s a sealed t r a i n Of cold excursionists throats buttoned up With yellow timetables. On folded hands The minutes drop l i k e dandruff, the Jetted column survives i n a black foetus And the goats leap i n t o our faces sh r i e k i n g . 78 The imminence of the demonic finally bursts in a f i t of grotesque madness. The demonic and the satyric are released, yet the poem makes i t unclear whether i t is really happening objectively, or whether the leaping goats are making the inner faces of the excursionists shriek in an hallucinated land-scape or experience. This imminence of subconscious, irrational or demonic forces informs "The Swimmer," "Newsboy," and "DeBullion Street." As i t rears up i n each of these poems i t takes on various faces and figures. It is a salient feature of Layton's poetic world and i t s various forms w i l l be examined, in a l l their changes, throughout the body of the poet's work. This imminence goes hand in hand with a dialectic, poetic in which terror accompanies the tragic vision. The dialectic in Layton's poems extends into the appre-hension of imagery and time. In "Winter Scene", the season (winter) and the time (evening) lead into that twilight zone where oppositions meet and are reconciled: 0 consider this mind on any gusty night cursed by division half darkness, half light. But the reconciliation is only i n the realization of the division, in the apprehension of the ambiguities of existence that are also mirrored in the natural order or world. The t i t l e , then, of this collection i s also in keeping with this dialectic. . Time and. place provide their own ambiguities— and they are the two-fold facets of the poet's world. The "here" is usually described at the expense of. the "now" in the poems discussed above. Yet the "now" invariably f a l l s in the twilight zone noted.in the passage from "Winter Scene." Most of the poems seem to take.place in a l i t e r a l or metaphorical twilight or imminence of darkness as in "The Swimmer." 79 Layton's next c o l l e c t i o n i s a reinforcement of hi s f i r s t book. The t i t l e i t s e l f , Now i s the Place, i s a reversal i n order of the two dimensions of Here and Now. The emphasis has changed and the t i t l e suggests the timelessness of the immediate. The immediate i n the leading story, "Vacation i n La V o i s e l l e , " i s fraught with misunderstanding and f a i l u r e . The state of mind of "Winter Scene" describes the progagonist's. Hugo.is.in approaching middle age—another t w i l i g h t zone and i s d i s i l l u s i o n e d with h i s p a r t i c i p a t i o n i n the p o l i t i c s of the t h i r t i e s and f o r t i e s . His sexual f a i l u r e s culminate i n a f r u s t r a t i n g u n f u l f i l l e d episode. No matter which way he may choose at the end of the story, the signposts declare that though the distances be different,. the destination remains the s ame• The destination i s the c i t y where he w i l l have to b u i l d anew. He has a momentary yet unsatisfying r e l i e f from the "underwater slums,"— the vacation was an intermediate s t a s i s . And so i t i s with Layton i n the c o l l e c t i o n of poetry. Now i s the Place i s an intermediate c o l l e c t i o n — a r e c a p i t u l a t i o n , and a p a r t i a l movement forward;, Two new s t o r i e s make up h a l f the pages, and sixteen of the twenty-seven poems are reprinted from Here and Now. The movement of opposites has come to an ambiguous destination. S e l f - d i v i s i o n has i t s c r i p p l i n g e f f e c t of p a r a l y s i s . Between these s t o r i e s and poems Layton r e a l l y does not develop much further. "The Eagle" prefaces the poetry s e l e c t i o n i n Now i s the Place. The poem could e a s i l y be the fantasy and musing of Sammy i n the other story, "A Death i n the F a m i l y " — a Sammy a few years older than the boy of nine. 80 Above the polished snow The i c i c l e s s p o i l l i k e f r u i t . What emblems are contained i n this f i r s t stanza? The polished snow suggests the sheen of c o f f i n s or the self-containment of a gleaming ego. It i s an emblem of the a r t i f i c i a l l y brightened, c i v i l i z e d and tamed elements of r e a l i t y . The i c i c l e s embody l i f e subject to change and mutability. Mutability i s l i v i n g and f e r t i l e ; immutability i s death and permanence. The i c i c l e s may be s p o i l i n g above the snow, yet that does not deter the i n e v i t a b l e . This i s not any kingdom But an overripe slum. . . And " c r a z i l y " the poet would l i k e to f i n d here some permanence and s e c u r i t y — " A rockbound province of the mind." Surrounding l i g h t , i n the shape of str e e t lamps, seems to be threatening and then assaulting him. Those other "princes" returning to this slum kingdom are "disenchanted and sor r o w f u l " — n o t unlike the i n t e l l e c t u a l s at Horn's i n "Vacation i n La V o i s e l l e " (that place name may be tra n s l a t e d as an agglutinate word meaning 'the way to her' or 'the way i t s e l f with i t s feminine character underlined) : The i n t e l l e c t u a l s that met every' evening at Horn's to exchange t h e i r sense of f a i l u r e f or moral indignation, that palmed o f f on each other t h e i r bone-lessness f o r idealism, that talked with so much assurance of t h e i r i n e v i t a b l e milleniums—he was one of them—they were freaks and chatterers. The release these chatterers o f f e r him "Is heavy and colder than i c e . " This "doorknob" i s s i m i l a r to that "polished snow": the world of s t a s i s and death. The l a s t stanza of the poem approaches the realm of fantasy or v i s i o n . Between the alt e r n a t i v e s of permanence and mutability, 81 between the "overripe slum" and the cold "doorknob", at each retreat appears the imperial b i r d , "the eagle." The "kingly b i r d " died at the stabbing of an i c i c l e . Thus, what i s vouchsafed from the confrontation of i c i c l e and snow i s t r a g i c death. The pattern emerges from the poem's four stanzas. In the f i r s t both antitheses are presented as coevals. In the second, the impermanent world and i t s l i m i t a t i o n s are made apparent. In the t h i r d , the l i m i t a t i o n s and defeats of impermanence are accompanied by, f i r s t , the t e r r o r of the s e l f ' s a n n i h i l a t i o n , and second, by man's compromised rebelliousness. And i n the fourth, permanence and impermanence both turn against the imperial i n man. Man i n the t r a g i c condition caught between both, leaves but a s t a i n as the emblem of h i s predicament. The b i r d o f f e r i n g release, and freedom (as the b u t t e r f l y i n "DeBullion Street" and the plunging diver of. "The Swimmer") has an in e v i t a b l e t r a g i c fate. The eagle as another form of the poet figure i s "blooded" by the condition of mo r t a l i t y . "The Eagle" and "The Swimmer" are. forms of the self-same figure: Heard h i s inescapable cry and seen i t bed In snow l i k e a b l o t of blood and f a r more red. ("The Eagle") And the l a s t wave romping i n To throw i t s boyhood upon the marble sand. ("The Swimmer") The f i n a l gestures are s i m i l a r and share the same s i g n i f i c a n c e . The poems of these f i r s t two c o l l e c t i o n s express these comprehensions of opposites i n the forms they take. In both s t o r i e s of Now i s the Place we f i n d glosses.on "The Eagle." In "Vacation 82 i n La V o i s e l l e " the protagonist struggles with the forces of impermanence represented by the s p o i l i n g i c i c l e . And i n "A Death i n the Family", the protagonist i s p i t t i n g himself against the unalterable fa c t of the permanence of death represented i n "The Eagle" by the "polished snow." The l a s t paragraph of that l a t t e r story p a r a l l e l s the p l a i n t i v e note i n the poem's l a s t stanza. Both are concerned with mortality and l o s s : It was growing dark outside. The boy turned away from the window and walked over to the sideboard. He loved the f e e l of the hard wood under h i s hand. He ran h i s fingers across the panels and along the f l a t , comfortable edges. Then, opening the cupboard door and putting h i s head i n s i d e , he took a deep breath. The next instant he uttered a cry and drew back quickly, as i f he had found a rat curled upon the starched l i n e n . The cupboard smelled of gas and d i s i n f e c t a n t ! - He banged the door shut and threw himself against i t , making the s i d e -board quiver. He stepped back and stared at the door uneasily. Something was t i g h t i n s i d e him, l i k e a small f i s t i n h i s throat. He f e l t a sense of loss and he w. as scared and he suddenly f e l t sad and he began to whimper. He glanced at the parlour table behind him. Then he went quickly out of the room. 'In Layton's f i r s t "selected poems," The Black Huntsman, published three years l a t e r , "The Eagle" has been r e t i t l e d "Lenin." The nuances of the new t i t l e are p o l i t i c a l , and the poem becomes the revolutionary leader's monologue. His solace and comfort now as a beleaguered revolutionary l i e s i n the i n e v i t a b l e dying of the imperial s o c i a l order represented by the C z a r i s t eagle. The d i a l e c t i c i n the imagery and symbolism of the poem would be i n keeping with a Marxist p h i l o s o p h i c a l perspective. I f i n d the f i r s t version with i t s former t i t l e more suggestive and metaphysical. The Lenin a l l u s i o n serves to neatly strangle the poem's p o s s i b i l i t i e s i n t o one noose of i n t e r p r e t a t i o n and fo cus. 83 In "The Yard" the imagery and imaginative leaps move the poem into the realm of the f a n t a s t i c a l and the s u r r e a l . The surrealism i s i r o n i c and Jewish, Chagallian without the warmth and vagueness of that Jewish a r t i s t . The eagle i n the above poem did not speak for i t s e l f , but the yard i n t h i s poem.becomes the speaking voice. It becomes another representation of that "overripe slum." It i s the translucent figure embodying that slum world, and i t takes on, with Layton's poetic ingenuity, the function of being the c l e a r i n g house for a l l the accoutrements of that world. This p e r s o n i f i e d yard becomes another figure f or the poet: the yard as witness, for through i t , a l l transpires and passes and takes on s i g n i f i c a n c e . I f "DeBullion Street" offered a hope of f a i r y t a l e escape and r e s o l u t i o n , "The Yard" offers a more complex r e s o l u t i o n . The poem begins with a f l a t assertion: "No one prospers outside my door." The yard " l i k e a suave c r i m i n a l " spies on t h i s slum world where prayer may be the opiate of the poor. The sense of imminence suggests what i s being prepared i n this microcosm: "the clot h e s l i n e s arch l i k e s c i m i t a r s , " and "windingsheets swell under a bolshevik moon." W i l l anything m a t e r i a l i z e from this foreboding scene? The yard notices the " f a t a l actors," the poor. Their pantomime i s sad and unclear, f o r they are "Waiting with t h e i r garbage p a i l s f o r the blue corpses." The blue corpses of a despairing Picasso canvas? This a l l has the dimension of an unreal drama. Children w i l l prod the f i r e f o r shards of glass f i n d i n g elements of a broken beauty i n t h i s garbage's blaze. But this random'childhood act of celebration w i l l be marred by the defeated, s u l l e n , joy-hating adults, "the cold eyed 84(A ) men" i n f e c t i n g the weather. In t h i s almost n i h i l i s t i c mood, what i s there l e f t for the speaker poet figure, the witness of the scene? Layton arranges the imagery as props of h i s symbolic city-scape as he did i n "The Swimmer" and other poems discussed. "A column of whispers r i s e s from the summermoist y a r d " — i s i t some kind of fecundity that rises, from, this yard? These voices (the voices of poetry?) make a seeming "neanderthal/Tree o f eden," a primordial c r u c i f i x i o n image which l i f t s " i t s immense branches/Over my banisters f or manslayer or s a i n t . " This tree, symbol of affirming v i t a l i t y , encompasses the opposites of manslayer and s a i n t , criminal and o l d woman, scimitars