7 Poets to Know Beyond ‘The Tortured Poets’

Beyond Taylor Swift’s latest release, these are 7 literary legends you should know.

Taylor Swift's latest musical endeavour, "The Tortured Poets Department," marks her eleventh studio album. It dropped on April 19, courtesy of Republic Records. The announcement came during the 66th Annual Grammy Awards on February 4, right after Swift snagged the Best Pop Vocal Album award for her previous album, "Midnights" (2022).

Expanding on her initial plan, Swift turned "The Tortured Poets Department" into a double album, aptly subtitled "The Anthology," surprising fans with a second volume of songs. The album's genesis traces back to Swift's post-"Midnights" period, as she crafted it during her Eras Tour (2023–2024).

Swift called "The Tortured Poets Department" her "lifeline" album, a culmination of her essential songwriting, containing 31 songs across two volumes, with the opener "Fortnight" featuring Post Malone.

Swift has a well-earned reputation for her poetic and emotionally resonant lyrics. She weaves intricate narratives and personal confessions that resonate with a wide audience, making her one of the most influential songwriters of her generation.

Taylor Swift: The Storyteller in Music

One of Swift's standout qualities is her ability to tell stories through her music. Her songs often feel like short stories or diary entries that reveal intimate details and emotional journeys. For example, "All Too Well" from her album Red is frequently lauded for its vivid storytelling and emotional depth, painting a detailed picture of a past relationship with imagery that feels both personal and universal.

Intertextuality and Swift’s Easter Eggs

Swift often includes intertextual references and Easter eggs in her lyrics, connecting songs across different albums and creating a 'Swiftian universe'. For instance, the recurring scarf motif in "All Too Well" is cleverly referenced in other tracks, which fans love to analyse and decode.

Imagery and Metaphor

Her use of imagery and metaphor can be heard in songs like "Cardigan" from her album Folklore. The lyrics of the song paint a nostalgic and bittersweet picture using symbolic elements like the cardigan as a representation of past love and comfort. The depth of imagery in her songwriting creates vivid scenes that stick with listeners long after the song ends.

Beyond ‘The Tortured Poets’: Exploring Literary Legends

While "The Tortured Poets Department" continues to make waves in the music world, let's shift our focus to the literary part by spotlighting 7 renowned poets whose works have created significant impacts on the literary world.

Patti Smith (1946-present) and Dylan Thomas (1914-1953)

Swift sings in “The Tortured Poets Department,” “I laughed in your face and said, ‘You’re not Dylan Thomas. I’m not Patti Smith. This ain’t the Chelsea Hotel. We’re modern idiots.”

The chorus of the title track of Taylor Swift’s 11th era album mentions two literary legends and one of the places that connects them: Patti Smith, Dylan Thomas, and the Chelsea Hotel.

Patti Smith, born in 1946, is a renowned poet, author, songwriter, singer, and painter. Her notable works include poetry collections like "Seventh Heaven" and "Woolgathering", along with memoirs such as "Just Kids", which won the National Book Award for Nonfiction in 2010. "Just Kids" provides insight into her relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe and their journey through the 1970s New York's artistic scene. Her subsequent memoir, "M Train", explores her later life and travels, exploring themes of loss, love, and art. Smith's influence on music, literature, and culture remains profound, earning her the title of "punk poet laureate" for her impactful contributions and ability to convey raw honesty and beauty.

Dylan  Thomas, a Welsh poet born in 1914, is famous for works like "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night" and "Under Milk Wood". The former, written as his father lay dying, passionately urges resistance against death. It is perhaps one of the most powerful examples of the form in English literature. "Under Milk Wood", a radio drama, vividly portrays a day in the life of a fictional Welsh seaside village, showcasing Thomas's mastery of language and imagery. He passed away in 1953.

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

Emily Dickinson was an American poet born in Amherst, Massachusetts, in 1830. She spent most of her life there, where she wrote nearly 1,800 poems, though very few were published during her lifetime. Dickinson is often regarded as one of the most important American poets of the 19th century.

Surprisingly, Swift and Emily Dickinson, revealed to be sixth cousins three times removed, share ancestry tracing back to a 17th-century English immigrant, as discovered by Ancestry.com.


Both descended from early settlers of Windsor, Connecticut, from Swift's ninth great-grandfather and Dickinson's sixth great-grandfather. While Dickinson, renowned for her poetry, lived a reclusive life in Amherst, Massachusetts, Swift has previously referenced her in relation to her songwriting style. Notably, Swift's ninth studio album, "Evermore," released on Dickinson's birthday, has prompted fans to draw connections between Swift's work and Dickinson's prose.

Sylvia Plath (1932-1963)

Sylvia Plath was an American poet known for her emotionally charged writing. She gained recognition for her work while attending Smith College. Plath's marriage to British poet Ted Hughes and her struggles with depression heavily influenced her poetry, which often explores themes of identity and despair. Her collection "Ariel" is celebrated for its raw emotion and vivid imagery. Her iconic poem "Daddy" deals with complex themes of family, identity, and trauma. It remains a staple in the study of modern poetry.

Although more indirectly, Swift’s songwriting shares similarities with Sylvia Plath's confessional style. Plath's poetry often explores deeply into her personal experiences, expressing raw emotions and complex states of mind.

Swift has created songs that explore her vulnerabilities and personal experiences, reminiscent of the confessional genre in which Plath was a pioneer.



For instance, Swift’s album "Folklore" and its sister album "Evermore" explore introspective and narrative-driven songwriting, much like Sylvia Plath’s confessional style of poetry. A specific song from "Folklore," "my tears ricochet," can be seen as reflecting this influence.

In this song, Swift explores themes of betrayal, loss, and mourning with an intensity and intimacy that parallel Plath’s poignant and often painful exploration of her emotions and experiences in her poetry.

Tragically, Plath died by suicide in 1963 at the age of 30, but her work continues to be studied and admired by readers and scholars worldwide.

E. E. Cummings (1894-1962)

E. E. Cummings was an American poet celebrated for his use of language and form. Renowned for defying conventions, he experimented with punctuation, structure, and syntax, creating a uniquely personal style. His poetry often explores themes of love, nature, and individual identity. Cummings' ability to evoke emotion and challenge traditional norms solidifies his legacy as one of the most influential poets of the 20th century.

Long ago, Swift shared an Instagram photo by the rocky sea, quoting a line from E. E. Cummings' classic poem: "For whatever we lose (like a you or a me), it's always ourselves we find in the sea." The poem is titled "maggy and milly and molly and may".

Swift's "Tortured Poets Department" album is replete with songs named after individuals. There is one titled "Chloe or Sam or Sophia or Marcus," which may suggest an influence from Cummings' poem.

Pablo Neruda (1904–1973)

Taylor Swift has mentioned the influence of the romantic and emotional depth found in Neruda's poetry. Neruda, a Nobel Prize-winning Chilean poet, is known for his passionate love poems and surrealist works. His ability to evoke emotion and his thematic focus on love and human connection resonate with the themes often explored in Swift's music.

In the liner notes of her 2012 album "Red", Swift mentions being captivated by a line from Pablo Neruda's poem "Tonight I Can Write the Saddest Lines." She quotes, "Love is so short, forgetting is so long," reflecting on its impact.

Furthermore, in Swift's 'All Too Well' short film, she opens with this same quote, emphasising its significance as a thematic anchor in her artistic expression.

Pablo Neruda was a Chilean poet acclaimed for his passionate and evocative verse. His poetry, renowned for its lyrical intensity and themes of love and social justice, culminated in the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1971.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

Swift's connection to William Shakespeare is less about direct influence and more about thematic parallels and a shared love for intricate storytelling. Shakespeare’s works, known for their deep exploration of human emotions and complex relationships, resonate with similar themes in Swift’s music.

For example, Swift often crafts narratives in her songs that explore the complexities of love, betrayal, and redemption, themes that are central to many of Shakespeare's plays.

In her song "Love Story," Swift directly references Shakespeare’s "Romeo and Juliet." However, she reimagines the narrative with a happier ending, showing both her inspiration from and creative divergence from Shakespeare's tragic love story.

This song echoes the romantic urgency and familial opposition found in "Romeo and Juliet" and showcases Swift's ability to adapt classical themes for contemporary audiences, much like Shakespeare’s plays often adapted well-known stories to suit his own theatrical ends.