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The Other Wish: Diane Swan

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"Diane Swan writes about deceptively ordinary life in deceptively ordinary diction. I say “deceptively” because what makes the transparent language of her poems into poetry is a flawless sense of rhythm, proportion, and narrative that isn’t ordinary at all. Her poems go down like a glass of water that turns out to have been 180 proof vodka— in this case, the punch is pure emotion, most often emotion for someone else, about someone else, an emotion of concern or love, passionate and hard-won. They aren’t egotrapped in the theatre of her own mind. “We dare not be boring” wrote Marianne Moore, and Diane Swan never is, as we read the poem or when it’s finished. The turns in her poems— their shaping, the angles they take on experience— entertain me as much as individual details made palpable, all of it operating inside a live voice on the page talking about what matters to her as if she were sitting across from you at a table. Sir Philip Sidney, echoing Horace’s idea of the social function of poetry, said its purpose was “to teach and to delight.” This is what Diane Swan’s poems do. They are implicitly moral: like beautiful music, they teach us how to feel. Though she would never make this claim for herself, the world would be a better place if we all felt for others as unsentimentally and honestly as she does."―Michael Ryan, The Boston Review

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