4 Poetry Collections for Your Tortured Poets Department Era

Taylor Swift marked the start of a new era last week, releasing her much-anticipated album The Tortured Poets Department, with plenty of emotion from fans in response. Full of heartbreaking ballads and confessional lyricism, The Tortured Poets Department showcases Swift at her most vulnerable and her most prolific. The 31 songs—spread across the original album and its 2 a.m. follow-up The Anthology—provide insights into the end of Swift’s six-year relationship, her complicated feelings about fame, and more. 


As its title suggests, this might be Swift’s most literary release yet, with the album mirroring poetry’s ability to take listeners on a journey across the emotional spectrum. The album’s sprawl means it offers up everything, from the searing rage of tracks like “Who’s Afraid of Little Old Me” and “The Smallest Man Who Ever Lived” to the unexpected romanticism of songs like “The Alchemy” and “So High School.” Dive into these poetry collections that do the same. 


Auguries of Innocence by Patti Smith


Patti Smith is one of the big poetry names Swift references in the titular track, “The Tortured Poets Department,” as she sings, “You’re not Dylan Thomas / I’m not Patti Smith.” Smith’s work draws parallels between music, lyricism, and poetry, as well as illuminates timeless influences and themes in a new light. Swift creates similar parallels in this album. Auguries of Innocence builds upon classic writers like William Blake and Arthur Rimbaud, as well as ruminates on the continued impact poetry can and should have in the modern age. 


The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas


It’s only fitting that fans in their tortured poets era add another name-dropped poet, Dylan Thomas, to their shelves. Celebrated as one of the most important Welsh poets, Thomas is still known for works like “Do not go gentle into that good night” and “And death shall have no dominion.” This edition of his collected works includes these favorites and dozens of others, providing a full scope of Thomas’s career.


The Letters I Will Never Send by Isabella Dorta


Many of the songs on The Tortured Poets Department read like unsent letters, as Swift addresses exes, enemies, fans, and even past versions of herself. Dorta’s poems write toward some of these same subjects and audiences, inviting readers to keep them or to cut them out and share. With letters to the body, to a crush, to a lover, and more, Dorta shares Swift’s ability to find poetry in any topic and to make her verse feel like a one-to-one dialogue. 


Stag’s Leap by Sharon Olds


The heartbreak on The Tortured Poets Department feels more severe and all-consuming than that of previous Swift albums. Not only does the singer mourn a relationship, but also a house and an entire city (as illustrated on “So Long London”), as well as a presumed and long-awaited future. This feels similar to how feminist poet Sharon Olds unabashedly and intensely reckons with heartbreak on Stag’s Leap, which delves into the end of her 30-year marriage and its wreckage. 

Looking to delve into Read Poetry’s Swiftie backlog? No matter what your favorite era is, we have poetry recs to pair with it—from 1989, to Midnights, to other beloved Taylor albums.