ICYMI: Taylor Swift's 'The Tortured Poets Department' highlights literary and music legends

Taylor Swift's recent album got all poetic on us, and that's a good thing. She even mentions Patti Smith in a chorus!
Taylor Swift | The Eras Tour - Singapore
Taylor Swift | The Eras Tour - Singapore / Ashok Kumar/TAS24/GettyImages

In case you missed it: Taylor Swift's recent album name-drops poets fairly often, which is certainly not a point against her. In fact, that she's encouraging her listeners to look into the poems of other artists is refreshing. So, while Stairway to 11 is mostly about classic rock (we are not an "all Taylor Swift news source"), one thing is still true: when Swift mentions "punk poetess" Patti Smith in the actual chorus of her song, it becomes something for classic rock-savvy people to consider (plus, let's face it: Taylor Swift's literally earth-shaking fandom will probably garner media outlets some attention).

In late April of 2024, Patti Smith chimed in on Taylor Swift's recent nod to her in the title track of Swift's latest album, The Tortured Poets Department. In the song's chorus, Swift clearly references Smith, a revered figure in the realm of rock poetry and art, alongside the iconic poet Dylan Thomas. She croons, "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.'"

(Warning: Taylor Swift does drop an "F-bomb" in the song The Tortured Poets Department, linked below.)

Taking to Instagram, Smith shared a snapshot of herself engrossed in a collection of Dylan Thomas's works, expressing gratitude for being mentioned alongside the esteemed Welsh poet by Taylor Swift, saying: "This is saying I was moved to be mentioned in the company of the great Welsh poet Dylan Thomas. Thank you, Taylor."

Who are the people and places name-dropped by Taylor Swift anyway?

Dylan Thomas, renowned for his poignant works like Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night, Under Milk Wood, and And Death Shall Have No Dominion, stands as a towering figure in 20th-century literature.

Meanwhile, Smith remains celebrated for her 1978 hit "Because the Night" (among other songs), with her memoir Just Kids clinching the National Book Award for nonfiction in 2010. The Chelsea Hotel, a storied haven for writers and artists, adds another layer of significance to Swift's lyrical reference.

More on Taylor Swift's poetry-savvy album

Swift's album, The Tortured Poets Department, made its debut with 16 tracks, featuring collaborations with Post Malone and Florence + The Machine. However, Swift astounded fans by later releasing more tracks to the release, making it a surprise double album, with the second part titled The Anthology, This was just two hours after the initial drop, adding 15 more songs, so it's either a cute little surprise or a cynical form of marketing manipulation, depending on how cynical you are.

Though I do not personally own the album, reports suggest that physical copies of the album contain a poem penned by Stevie Nicks, dedicated to Swift. The poem, titled For T — and me…, delves into themes of unrequited love and emotional turmoil, adding a poetic flourish to Swift's musical endeavor.