Poetry and Music Pairings: Phoebe Bridgers Edition
From her sold-out tour to her four Grammy nominations and iconic guitar smash on Saturday Night Live, Phoebe Bridgers has amassed millions of fans. Her introspective and often haunting lyrics, as well as the existential themes underlying her work, parallel modern poetry. Bridgers’s listeners can pick up these three poetry collections that mirror her music.
1. Stranger in the Alps and Department of Elegy by Mary Biddinger
Bridgers’s debut album, Stranger in the Alps, made the Billboard charts for U.S. folk album, independent album, and top album sales overall. It connected with audiences based on its inquisitive reckoning with grief, which Bridgers explores on songs like “Smoke Signals,” “Killer,” and the aptly titled “Funeral.” While Bridgers communes with the dead, she also finds both wonder and horror in daily life—painting experiences like riding a bike down Scott Street and leaving an emotionally abusive relationship in vivid, personal detail.
Similarly, Department of Elegy occupies the space between life and death, both writing to lost friends and looking back at their memories in dance clubs and bars. With Bridgers’s same punk influence and energy, Biddinger also finds inspiration in youth, nostalgia, and longing, as she tries to reconcile the past with the present.
2. Better Oblivion Community Center and GESUNDHEIT! by Sam Herschel Wein and Chen Chen
Better Oblivion Community Center showcases Bridgers delving more deeply into her folk influence, as well as collaborating with friend and fellow singer-songwriter Conor Oberst. Above all, exploration and experimentation define the album, with Bridgers and Oberst choosing not to release promotional singles due to none exemplifying the project’s wide-ranging sound.
GESUNDHEIT! is also a collaborative project between poets and friends Sam Herschel Wein and Chen Chen. Like with Better Oblivion Community Center, friendship can be deeply felt throughout the chapbook and helps define it. Chen and Wein even dedicate poems in the collection to each other. The poems in the collection also vary in theme and tone, ranging from joyful odes to social critique.
3. Punisher and Sorry I Haven’t Texted You Back by Alicia Cook
Phoebe Bridgers is known for speaking out about her struggles with mental health within her music, during interviews, and on social media. These themes especially shine through on Punisher, Bridgers’s second solo album, which went on to be nominated for Best Alternative Album at the Grammys. Bridgers counts loneliness and numbness as some of the most significant subject matter. From imagining the apocalypse in “I Know The End” to ruminating on mortality and spirituality in “Chinese Satellite,” Bridgers isn’t afraid to take on heavy topics with honesty and dark humor throughout Punisher’s 11 tracks.
Poet Alicia Cook clearly favors lyric poetry, with her collection Sorry I Haven’t Texted You Back structured as a mixtape. Her poetry mirrors Bridgers’s music for many more reasons than just its form and sound play—however, like Bridgers, Cook is dedicated to amplifying the dialogue around mental health. Inspired by a viral poem of the same name in which Cook writes, “Sorry I haven’t texted you back, / (I’ve been so anxious and depressed) / You know how life gets,” this collection encapsulates Bridgers’s diaristic and confessional energy.