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A Look at The Latest Poetry from the Desk of Taylor Swift

Photographed by Beth Garrabrant all rights reserved to Republic Records

Taylor Swift is breaking records with the release of not one but two albums. The Tortured Poets Department and its surprise Anthology, are delighting fans and drawing scrutiny from all directions. With such lofty expectations, does it measure up to the rest of Swift’s impressive catalog? 

The full album houses a total of thirty-one exquisite ‘poems’ that take the listener on a tortured journey through the five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance). Tortured Poets is an emotional rollercoaster full of bangers, revenge ballads, and tear jerkers. Each song is a testament to Swift’s cryptic lyrical mastery with expert production and vocals while remaining painfully relatable. 

The Tortured Poets Department broke Swift’s own records she set for Midnights, with the most streams of an album in a single day across music platforms. West’s own Elliot Library even got in on the excitement and celebrated the release along with National Poetry Month. Throughout lunch periods on April 19, groups made friendship bracelets and poetry crafts, all while listening to Swift’s musical catalog. 

Library display for The Tortured Poets Department event Photo provided by Ms. Furukawa

This record begins with a collaboration with Post Malone entitled “Fortnight.” It is so dreamy it borders on haunting with lines like “I love you, it’s ruining my life/ I touched you for only a fortnight,” it sets the tone for the rest of this gleefully depressed album and it is no surprise it became the most streamed song in a single day on Spotify.

First and foremost, The Tortured Poets Department is a breakup album and many songs are slow and sorrowful like the devastating “loml,” which simultaneously stands for love of my life and loss of my life. “Peter,” “How Did It End?” and “I Look in People’s Windows,” also explore the lows of grief with Swift’s soft, hypnotic voice coloring these mournful lullabies. 

Swift herself admits a pattern of her track fives being among the most vulnerable and “So Long London” is no exception. It begins with a church-like choral repetition before pitching down to hear “I stopped CPR, after all, it’s no use/ The spirit was gone, we would never come to/And I’m pissed off you let me give you all that youth for free.” With lines like “ You say I abandoned the ship/But I was going down with it,” there is no doubt this song matches the chairman’s pattern. 

Other installments are disconcertingly peppy like “My Boy Only Breaks His Favorite Toys,” with an infectious rhythmic upbeat tone coupled with lyrics like “I’m the queen of sandcastles he destroys,” this track’s brutal symbolism makes it one of the best on the album. “Down Bad,” and “imgonnagetyouback,” are of a similar vein. The former is climbing the charts, teeming with expletives, and houses defeated lines such as “For a moment I knew cosmic love/Now I’m down bad crying at the gym/Everything comes out teenage petulance,” and “I might just not get up/I might stay down bad.” The latter is a prime example of this records’ converging tones as Swift bargains between “Whether I’m gonna be your wife or/Gonna smash up your bike, I haven’t decided yet/ But I’m gonna get you back.” 

This turbulent record also has a fair share of emotional pick-me-ups. “Florida!!!”, featuring Florence + The Machine, is an escape from emotional turmoil against the backdrop of a hazy vacation accompanied by sporadic heavy drums. “So High School” and “But Daddy I Love Him” also act as emotional life rafts with more romantic, rose-colored glasses. 

Swift also explores the pitfalls of fame in tracks “Clara Bow,” and “ I Can Do It With a Broken Heart.” This album was written over the course of two years, and many songs were presumably written during Swift’s record breaking Eras Tour. With an upbeat synth mix, “I Can Do It With a Broken Heart,” analyzes the mask of happiness many wear during personal strife, and may offer some insight into her own mindset as she proclaims that “All the pieces of me shattered/As the crowd was chanting ‘More!’/I was grinning like I’m winning/I was hitting my marks/‘Cause I can do it with a broken heart.”

Some vengeful tracks were also entered into evidence like “The Smallest Man Who Ever Lived,” “Who’s Afraid of Little old Me?”, and “thanK you aIMee.” Some of the song’s subjects’ identities are more veiled than others and fans are left to speculate who the “tattooed golden retriever,” sad Londoner, “spray-tanned statue,” or the boy who knows “how to ball” are. 

The final poem, “The Manuscript,” brings us to acceptance as it looks back upon a failed relationship and closes that chapter. She signs off with the line “But the story isn’t mine anymore,” leaving the narrative for her listeners to enjoy. 

This is the ninth record Swift has released in five years, five of which were new studio albums and the remainder were re-records. Taylor Swift is one of the biggest things in culture right now, with a work ethic that arguably surpasses her notoriety, and this leads to a plethora of music that many fans and critics express is leading to fatigue. Would she be criticized for working hard and not making dramatic sonic changes if she was a man? 

While The Tortured Poets Department could have been condensed, the honest lyrical dissonance combined with a sense of humor and playfulness with the American zeitgeist makes this latest installment to Swift’s discography a fascinating puzzle many will ravenously solve. As Swift swirls you into all of her poems, she confirms that all is fair in love and poetry. 


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About the Contributor
Katherine Schlueter
Katherine Schlueter is a junior and Editor-in-Chief of The Glen Bard. In addition to newspaper, she enjoys reading, camping, listening to music, and drinking copious amounts of coffee.