16 Swimmer of Lethe OIl on canvas 2010 6x4ft

What appeals to me about working with artists is that the poem is dictated by someone else’s vision; I like being taken in unexpected directions.

Tom’s painting Swimmer of Lethe had a strong impact on me: the positioning of the body, the colourscape of blues and browns (like the merging of earth and water, but also like a bruise). The figure is blurred in that indeterminate, muddied space – unfulfilled, incomplete; my original draft began with the line ‘Here I’m just a body / without considerations’. Although I scrapped that line, in favour of starting right at the point when flesh meets water, I retained the first-person narrative, which felt appropriate – the picture really drew me in, so I wanted the intimacy that the ‘I’ gives. Although the final line suggests classical notions of Lethe, I was also thinking of the clinical starkness of the white tiles in the right half of the painting, which carry me into everyday reality of the municipal pool, the bathroom, the hospital – places of this world, as opposed to the netherworld. It’s as if the figure in the painting is straddling both.