5 Poetry Collections to Read If You’re in Your 1989 Era
In 2014, Taylor Swift pulled off the ultimate pop crossover album and cemented herself as one of music’s biggest names with 1989. From the misheard lyric “Starbucks lovers,” to Taylor walking the Victoria’s Secret runway while performing “Style,” the era is arguably the star’s most iconic ㅡ and now, it’s back.
At the end of October, the release of 1989 (Taylor’s Version) reintroduced fans to beloved classics like “Shake It Off,” “Blank Space,” and “New Romantics,” and also caused a frenzy on social media with five new vault tracks. If you’re a Swiftie, it’s likely you want to embrace and enjoy this era ㅡ widely seen as one of Taylor’s most risk-taking and liberating ㅡ as much as possible. Here are five collections that mirror 1989’s settings and themes.
I Speak of the City: Poems of New York edited by Stephen Wolf
As soon as 1989 begins, the album establishes a very clear sense of place and quite literally welcomes listeners to New York City with the track “Welcome to New York.” Taylor’s love for NYC emerged during the 1989 era, and has continued to play a big role in her music ever since. I Speak of the City is the largest and most wide-ranging book of poems devoted to New York City, with poems touching on everything from subway rides to Broadway.
Harbour Grids by Zane Koss
Harbour Grids is also informed by the backdrop of New York City, but resonates with the watery and ethereal feeling of “This Love” and “Clean” more than the frenetic energy of more upbeat tracks. It’s a meditation on the scenery surrounding its speaker, specifically New York Harbor. As Koss depicts this beautiful and singular setting, it leads him to analyze what being part of a city, community, and landscape means and how these large-scale identifications inform daily life, ideas that the 1989 era both celebrates and reckons with.
Sorry I Haven’t Texted You Back by Alicia Cook
Much of 1989 is a dialogue between what was said and unsaid. Songs like “I Wish You Would” and “All You Had to Do Was Stay” speak to truths that were never shared, while songs like “How You Get the Girl” and “Wildest Dreams” consider imaginative, alternate realities. Alicia Cook’s Sorry I Haven’t Texted You Back comes from the same dualistic and internal place, juxtaposing texts the speaker did send with what she wishes she could reveal.
Dancing on the Grave of a Son of a Bitch by Diane Wakoski
Throughout her career, Taylor has never shied away from powerful and lyrical anger, and 1989 is no exception. “Bad Blood” speaks to a need for holding grudges and revenge, and the vault track “Now That We Don’t Talk” shows Taylor shading an ex with a penchant for acid rock and mega yachts. On songs like these, she finds unexpected catharsis, playfulness, and even joy in giving herself over to anger, an emotion that can be especially complex for women. Dancing on the Grave of a Son of a Bitch by Beat poet Diane Wakoski takes a similar approach, seeing anger as a feeling that pushes her to be carefree.
If This Isn’t Love by Susana H. Case
A consistent theme throughout Taylor’s career has been the distance between the idea of love and the actual experience of it. In particular, Taylor contends with the realization that her view of love has been shaped by pop culture and an urge for cinematic sparkle. This idea comes across most clearly on 1989 in “Wildest Dreams,” with a video that unfolds on a movie set. Similarly, Susana H. Case’s If This Isn’t Love takes inspiration from Italian telenovelas and their dramaticized romantic ideals. An excerpt from the collection’s last poem reads, “The foolish girl who thought / she might be alone the rest of her life… ended up / fine, happy even.” This seems to echo the life that Taylor created for herself during the 1989 era – one full of friends and independence – as well as the album’s secret message, “She lost him, but found herself, and somehow that was everything.”
Happy reading! Need more Swift-inspired poetry recs? Check out our roundup of collections to read if you loved Midnights.