6 Sparkling Collections to Read If You Loved Taylor Swift’s Midnights
Trigger warning: This article briefly mentions disordered eating.
Taylor Swift’s 10th studio album, Midnights, hit shelves and streaming services a little over a month ago, and it’s easy to see its ties to poetry. Swift—a notorious reader who has included nods to William Wordsworth, Emily Dickinson, and F. Scott Fitzgerald in her songs—continues to make lyricism the forefront of her music. From the intense, volatile color symbolism in “Maroon” to the cozy imagery in “Sweet Nothings,” Midnights once again lets listeners into Swift’s lush, decidedly literary world. These six poetry collections echo the themes and worldbuilding of the fan-favorite album.
1. I Would Leave Me If I Could by Halsey
Swift may be a major celebrity, but her songwriting often focuses on relationships and small moments rather than her large-scale fame. However, Midnights marks a departure and shows Swift grappling more honestly with her legacy, her public persona, and both growing up and aging in the spotlight. In opener “Lavender Haze,” for example, Swift tells listeners she’s been “under scrutiny.” In the standout single “Anti-Hero,” Swift indulges in criticisms that have been leveled at her throughout her career, as well as imagines a money-hungry daughter-in-law eagerly reading her will. Halsey’s debut poetry collection, I Would Leave Me If I Could, is a similar example of a musician and lyricist acknowledging celebrity with vulnerability and brutal honesty, veering between self-hatred and personal growth.
2. The Year of the Femme by Cassie Donish
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With her more recent albums, Swift has unapologetically explored gender, examining the gendering of desire, violence, sex, societal expectations, and more. Midnights picks up where this past analysis left off, and journeys into it even more deeply. In “Mastermind,” for example, Swift points out how women are often expected to be passive in relationships and challenges this with a clever, playful ode to her own agency—rather than waiting for a lover to seduce her, Swift steps into this untraditional role and defies typical power dynamics. In “Question…?” she bemoans “politics and gender roles,” seeing them as obstacles to a thwarted love connection. Cassie Donish’s The Year of the Femme, winner of the prestigious Iowa Poetry Prize, boldly assert both femininity and queerness, illustrating the many ways that identities and systems of power affect daily life.
3. Poems of the Sea, edited by J.D McClatchy
Swift’s albums often have a strong sense of setting and place, and Midnights is no exception. Watery, seaside imagery appears most obviously in “Snow on the Beach,” her anticipated collab with Lana Del Rey, which chronicles a wintry beach scene and mirrors the surreality of falling in love. It reemerges later on the album in “Sweet Nothings,” where Swift opens the song with a memory of finding a pebble on the shore. Poems of the Sea, an anthology devoted to the significance of sea-inspired imagery and metaphor throughout poetic history, establishes a similar scene.
4. Fragments by Marilyn Monroe
Midnights has been applauded as Swift’s most confessional album, with the singer herself calling it her “most personal to date.” Many of the songs revolve around Swift dissecting her public image and contrasting it with her private reality. In “You’re On Your Own Kid,” Swift painfully confronts her past struggles with body dysmorphia and disordered eating, which unfolded as her body was praised and regularly photographed during the 1989 era. Similarly, bonus track “Dear Reader” pushes back against Swift’s sparkling reputation as a role model with a perfect life, as she advises fans to “never take advice from someone who’s falling apart.” Fragments, an intimate collection of poems, notes, and journal entries from Marilyn Monroe, also lifts the veil on an idealized, Hollywood lifestyle, revealing its cracks and challenges. Like Swift, Monroe established a highly curated image, in some ways creating a blueprint for female celebrities, but achieving her dream had darker, often overshadowed consequences.
5. LVOE by Atticus
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Like with all Taylor Swift albums, no matter what varied themes songs delve into, the complexities of love are always the foundation. Atticus has taken a similar approach with his four poetry collections, exploring romance and heartbreak in each one. Whether you relate more to the terrifying but thrilling infatuation on the track “Labyrinth,” or to the messy regrets and anger that define the song “High Infidelity,” there’s a poem within the pages of LVOE that will mirror your emotional landscape. Like Midnights, the collection LVOE pairs romantic love with self-love, presenting both as a rich, ever-evolving relationship and journey.
6. Poems of New York, edited by Elizabeth Schmidt
New York City was the defining muse of the 1989 album, and many of the songs on Midnights seem to harken back to this era and time period. In “Maroon,” Swift looks back on dancing barefoot in the famed city, with it serving as a backdrop for both falling in love and inevitable, cinematic heartbreak. In “Bejeweled,” her insistence of “by the way, I’m going out tonight,” easily conjures images of bustling streets and the city’s bars and nightclubs. Poems of New York brings together different writers’ takes on the iconic city, spanning Walt Whitman to Allen Ginsberg.
Happy reading, Swifities! For even more Swift-related recommendations, check out our past round-up of poetry pairings for each of Taylor Swift’s previous albums—from her debut to evermore.