Irving Layton’s The Swimmer can be interpreted as an exploration of the contrary connection between the artist and his art. The poet is simultaneously witness and participant; the art is simultaneously expression and mimesis. It is precisely this clashing relationship that makes the swimmer metaphor so apt: the swimmer is both apart from and within the water. The Swimmer can be read as the same emergent space in-between the swimmer and the sea: poetry is what is created from the poet and his art.
In The Fertile Muck, Irving Layton explores the physical and metaphorical dichotomies between the micro and the macro in the natural and artificial worlds. In doing so, Layton reveals a poetic omnipresence, accessible through love and imagination, which dominates reality.