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This review is taken from PN Review 51, Volume 13 Number 1, September - October 1986.

CARMINED ORIFICES Irving Layton, The Love Poems of Irving Layton (Mosaic Press/John Calder) £5.50 pb.
Irving Layton, The Gucci Bag (Mosaic Press/John Calder) £5.50 pb.

'How to dominate reality?' speculated Irving Layton in an earlier poem, 'The Fertile Muck', and he supplied the answer: 'Love is one way;/Imagination another.' The questions begged are staggering: that an agreed reality exists, that it can in some way be dominated, and that to dominate it might in fact be a sensible or desirable thing to do. Now in his seventies, with four prolific decades of poetry, four marriages, and a professorship of English at York University (Toronto) behind him, Layton has lost none of his somewhat blustering determination to dominate, nor any of his winning confidence in love and imagination.

Love for Layton has normally meant sex; reviewing The Black Huntsman in 1951, Northrop Frye commented, 'One can get as tired of buttocks in Mr Layton as of buttercups in the Canadian Poetry Magazine', and Love Poems testifies to forty years of writing about breasts, buttocks, thighs, mouths, eyes, and other anatomical points of interest. Given the interest of his material, Layton can turn in astonishingly dull stanzas, such as this one:


She's gone. The one that made me turn
restlessly from side to side each
sleepless night, thinking of her cool naked limbs
curled up on the lovestained sheets,
her red lips and long black lashes,
her smiles, her pouts, her sexy gestures,
the perfection of her small feet.


These lines are not unfairly extracted, but unfortunately are typical in ...


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