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Limmud Ottawa presents Irving Layton: The Jewish Poems

On Sunday, October 24, Limmud Ottawa and the Vered Jewish Canadian Studies Program at the University of Ottawa present a thought-provoking and entertaining session via Zoom on the writings of one of Canada’s major poets, Irving Layton.  

It’s an opportunity for Limmud viewers to “renew their encounter with Canada’s most engaged poet,” says Professor Seymour Mayne. 

The session is being held at this time to celebrate the publication of a special double issue of Irving Layton’s Jewish poems. The issue was prepared by Mayne, with the permission of the late poet’s publisher, at the invitation of the editor of Shirim, the longest flourishing magazine of Jewish poetry in English.  

“Irving Layton was one of Canada’s major poets and a leading voice in 20th century Jewish writing,” said Mayne. 

“Attendees will be able to hear his poems read while they will be visually presented on everyone’s screen - for greater enjoyment and interest.” 

“The session begins at 2:00 PM and will run for one hour and a half,” said Jenny Roberge, the Chair of Limmud Ottawa. “The event is free and to participate you will need to register. We will do our best to make the session accessible for the visual and hearing impaired. There will also be opportunities for attendees to interact with the speakers by providing “break-out rooms” after the main session for those participants who wish to continue conversations with the speakers.”    

Mayne will be joined in conversation on Layton’s writing life and body of work by his University of Ottawa colleague, Natalia Vesselova, also of the Vered Jewish Canadian Studies Program. 

Given the focus of Shirim, Mayne said he concentrated on editing an issue devoted to the poet’s work on Jewish themes and subjects. Layton is often compared to his mentor and friend, the poet A. M. Klein (1909-1972), but few have noted Layton’s body of work devoted to engaging Jewish concerns.  

“His Jewish poems, so central to his body of work, definitely hold attention today,” says Mayne, “when anti-Semitism, morphed into new recrudescence, assaults Jews, Judaism, and Israel with an offensive vehemence.”  

Irving Layton passed away in early 2006 at the age of 93.  He published little in his later years.  This session, following on the publication of the special issue of Shirim, is aimed at rekindling interest in Layton's major body of work. 

Max Layton the poet’s eldest son, and a writer and performer, will join the session and recite some of his father’s compelling poems. Max Layton will read two poems with a biographical subject, Keine Lazarovitch: 1870-1859 and Cain.  

Seymour Mayne will choose readings from among On Seeing the Statuettes of Ezekiel and Jeremiah in the Church of Notre Dame; On Being Bitten by a Dog; Family Portrait; Synagogue in West Palm Beach; For My Brother Jesus; To the Victims of the Holocaust; Rhine Boat Trip; and A Wild Peculiar Joy.                

To register for the program please click here  

For program information go to or write to