From a Thomas Lux interview with Peter Swanson:
History seems particularly important to you.
As I said, I read a great deal of it. Never in any systematic way but I have read deeply in certain areas: World War II, medieval, lately a lot of nineteenth-century world history and eighteenth- and nineteenth-century American history. A persistent theme of mine seems to be man’s inhumanity to woman and man. Lots of examples of that in history and right up until the seconds before I finish typing up this sentence. Lots of metaphorical possibilities to mine there too! I’m just curious: I don’t want to take tests on what I read; I don’t want to argue with history professors about theories. An example of the kind of book I like best would be about the daily life—in as great detail as possible—of a fifteenth-century German pig farmer.
The Drowned River uses a famous saying of William Faulkner’s as an epigraph: “The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past.” How important is that idea to your poetry?
Well, I believe Mr. Faulkner was right. I don’t think he meant simply “history repeats itself,” though that’s implicit too. I think he’s saying that humans are pretty much the same as we’ve always been. I think he’s saying that despite all the tremendous advantages the modern world brings us, we carry our past, ourselves, our history, with us always. As a country. As one country among many others. As individuals. I think he’s taking a swipe at our human arrogance, the relentless drive of the human ego.