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Layton, Irving.

Toronto, McClelland and Stewart. 1987. 128pp, cloth, $19.95, ISBN 0-7710-4947-1. CIP

Reviewed by Pat Bolger

Volume 16 Number 5
1988 September

Selected to reflect "the Jews' unique and tragic encounter with history," the 128 poems here are drawn from Layton's life in poetry--at least a collection a year since 1945. In one of the more recent poems, Layton writes:

I grow more savage with the
affrighting years,
my poems more bitter and scornful
so that they are stones I scatter
in fusillades of mockery and hate. . .

His bitterness and hatred are directed at gentiles, especially for their participation—or acquiescence—in the Nazi persecution of the Jews. His Holocaust poems assault the reader with horrors; "The Final Solution," "Proper Reading Light" and two poems for Anne Frank are impossible to forget. A group of poems addressed to Jesus as Jew and brother are also memorable for their use of religious stereotypes.

There are tributes to writers like A.M. Klein. Pasternak and Heinrich Heine and a number of powerful family poems like "Keine Lazarovitch" and "Senile, My Sister Sings." Occasionally there is also a fleeting glimpse of quite another Layton. The little boy who discovered Tennyson and called his cat Launcelot for a whole week can be detected in the gentle goofiness of "The Luminous Bagel."

This collection will be well used in public libraries. Although high school students will use this primarily as a source for units on the Holocaust, there is also useful material for world religions or the study of aging.

Pat Bolger, Renfrew Collegiate Institute, Renfrew, Ont.
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