Pop Powerhouses and Poets: A Feminist Playlist for this Summer
From poetry’s rhythmic cadence and stunning lyricism to the popularity of spoken word poetry, sometimes the best poems are like songs, and experts and amateurs, alike have discussed the connection between poetry and music for years.
As we head into the summer season, there’s nothing better than jamming out to your favorite music in the car, at the pool, or at a party—and during your downtime, poetry makes for a perfect outdoor read.
Another inspiring similarity between poetry and music? In both industries, women top the charts. If you love to hear powerful pop stars exploring gender roles, mental health, and relationships in their music, your favorite summer single could lead to a sizzling new read.
If you love Halsey—read Amanda Lovelace
“I’ve tasted blood and it is sweet / I’ve had the rug pulled beneath my feet / I’ve trusted lies and trusted men / Broke down and put myself back together again.” —Halsey, “Nightmare”
“If you’re going to be / dragged through hell, / then you might as well / reign over it.” —Amanda Lovelace, “filed under: things persephone taught me”
In her new song “Nightmare,” Halsey embraces fierce feminist revenge. She’s reclaimed her anger as artistic fuel. Just think of her now-famous SNL performance, where she used betrayal as inspiration for a confessional performance that even included upside-down art. And in the song “Hurricane,” Halsey aptly compares herself to a mighty, raging storm.
Amanda Lovelace takes the same approach in her beloved Women Are Some Kind of Magic series, imagining herself as a dragon, a mermaid, a heroine, and more, as she asserts power over her own narrative.
Learn more: Amanda Lovelace | to make monsters out of girls
If you love Ariana Grande—read Alicia Cook
“Feel my blood running, swear the sky’s falling / How do I know if this sh*t’s fabricated? / Time goes by and I can’t control my mind.” —Ariana Grande, “Breathin’”
“I’ve come this far on a broken heart — functioning at maybe, on a good day, 40% efficiency. So, I think you should be nervous about what I will accomplish once I heal.” —Alicia Cook
Ariana Grande has greatly contributed to an international discussion of mental health. She released the song “Breathin’,” an anthem about coping with the daily reality of anxiety, raised awareness for PTSD by showing her own brain scans, and used Twitter both to share her own struggles and to empathize with fans.
Similarly, her music shows us that women’s feelings and personal lives are worth listening to—and that the world thinks so, too.
Alicia Cook’s work carries that same message: Her bestselling first book is aptly titled Stuff I’ve Been Feeling Lately. Not only do her poems touch on anxiety, depression, and the ups and downs of relationships, but they also serve as a beautiful testament to how we can heal.
If you love Lizzo—read Tanya Markul
“I don’t get dehydrated, I moisturize it daily / I am my inspiration, I am my inspiration.” —Lizzo, “Water Me”
“When I realized my pain came from wanting to / be acknowledged, I began to see the woman I / really was.” —Tanya Markul, “Ninety-Seven”
With her emphasis on body positivity, sex positivity, and overall empowerment, listening to Lizzo is like basking in confidence and self-love. With her early What’s Underneath Project, Lizzo discusses her own evolution—something that’s proved to be the foundation of her music. Her much-anticipated album Cuz I Love You seems to be, above all, a love letter to herself.
Tanya Markul’s poems also focus on self-love. Her poems titled with different ages show a woman’s evolution and journey from as early as 11 to as wise as 97. Like Lizzo, Markul seems to be focused on stripping away social pressures and stereotypes to fully embody her identity.
Read more: “Thirty-Five” by Tanya Markul
If you love Carly Rae Jepsen—read Lang Leav
“Thought it was impossible / It’s just like a miracle / Say nothing’s impossible now / Now that I found you.” —Carly Rae Jepsen, “Now That I Found You”
“You greet me by the doorway, / birdsong fills the room— / my love, look out the window, / our garden’s come into bloom.” —Lang Leav, “Springtime”
Carly Rae Jepsen, who’s garnered attention for her much-anticipated fourth album and Queer Eye trailer song, treats love as a hopeful, intense, heart-breaking, and serious subject matter. Through her songs, which chronicle breakups, makeups, infatuation, and more, she portrays the full evolution of love in all its forms.
Leav’s latest book of poetry, Love Looks Pretty on You, also focuses in on the intricacies of love. Like Jepsen, Leav’s writing plays tribute to every stage in a relationship, allowing readers to connect her words to their own experiences. Through their work, both Leav and Jepsen show that love is worth both the risk and the reflection.
Read more: “After All” by Lang Leav