Dance with Desire: Selected Love Poems

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Porcupine's Quill, 1992 - Poetry - 189 pages

`Don't let the title fool you; this is not a book of romantic bric-a-brac, a Valentine's Day gift to be lightly given and lightly forgotten. Irving Layton's career was based on an unflinching attention to everything he could discover about the human character, including its less savoury aspects. In the poems of Dance with Desire chosen from across the span of his long career, Layton styles himself as a 20th-century Catullus, loving and hating with equal glee, given to passionate excesses and epigrammatic precision, utterly unconcerned with sweet nothings or political correctness. Layton is often charged with being too verbose, with having published far too many substandard poems, and having let his verse grow slack as he grew older. These are all valid criticisms, but they don't really apply to Dance with Desire since its very existence depends upon the excesses, embarrassments, and foolishness of the unstifled love that Layton celebrates.'

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To the Girls of My Graduating Class
Thanatos and Eros
Berry Picking
Bicycle Pump

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About the author (1992)

Irving Layton was born in Romania in 1912; a year later he and his parents arrived in Montreal. Educated in the same city, he received his Bachelors of Scince in agriculture from Macdonald College and an M.A. in political economy from McGill University. Throughout his career Layton has been writer-in-residence at several Canadian universities. Easily the most controversial Canadian poet, he was professor of English at Toronto's York University, a post from which he retired in 1978. Layton's verse has been variously described as dazzling, vulgar, sexist, and hyperbolic, yet Layton has always redeemed himself by the integrity with which he approaches his craft. His poetry avoids sentimentality, often centering on decidedly unpoetic, mundane images. Layton is a self-proclaimed "public exhibitionist," and his frank, bawdy verse and antagonist persona have tended to alienate him from both intellectual circles and the general public. Layton has published 40 or so volumes of poetry, some with outrageous titles such as The Gucci Bag (1983), For My Brother Jesus (1976), and Droppings from Heaven (1979). Much of his work is in print, a testament to his continuing popularity, and supports his declaration that the "poet has a public function as a prophet.

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