Family, friends mourn poet Irving Layton

Friends and family gathered in Montreal on Sunday to remember legendary poet Irving Layton, who died last week at age 93.

Legendary bad-boy poet Irving Layton was remembered in Montreal Sunday as a maverick genius by friends and family who gathered to lay him to rest.

Layton, 93, died Jan. 4 at a Montreal residence for seniors; he had been battling Alzheimer's for some time.

The author of more than 40 books of poetry and essays is widely considered one of English Canada's pre-eminent poets.

Many of Layton's former students attended the funeral, including Federal Justice Minister Irwin Cotler, media innovator Moses Znaimer and singer and poet Leonard Cohen. They all spoke at the gathering.

"That which Irving loved the best, his work, will survive him, no doubt. Generations to come will learn these verses and they will transcend any positions, any political strategies, any literary strategies. They're here, they're written in stone, and they'll be read for a long, long time," Cohen said in his eulogy.

Cohen also read from Layton's poem The Graveyard. 

The various speakers remembered Layton as flamboyant, audacious and one-of-a-kind – a great poet who transformed the Canadian literary landscape.

He was honoured as a teacher, colleague, mentor, poet and friend, a man whose doors were always open to artists and writers. Layton was named to the Order of Canada in 1976.

Layton spent much of his life battling the British hold on the Canadian literary scene and railing against the status quo. He was known for his provocative and sensual poetry, and also for his brash, larger-than-life public persona.

"Irving Layton felt the injustice around him. His poetry was a means of conveying that message of injustice and of mobilizing us in that struggle, and never to acquiesce in conventional wisdoms of the time or the political correctness that would pass for conventional wisdom but to be a voice for the voiceless," eulogized Cotler.

Layton married five women, each marriage ending in divorce. He leaves four children.