her latest album reminds us that she is above all a poet

her latest album reminds us that she is above all a poet
her latest album reminds us that she is above all a poet

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MUSIC – With a name like that – The Tortured Poets Department in the language of Molière) – the tone was clearly set. The album that Taylor Swift released in April was a reminder that she is much more than a pop star. The American singer, who performs at La Défense Arena this Thursday, May 9, also and perhaps above all sees herself as a poet.

Taylor Swift has always identified herself as a songwriter first, before being a singer. She now calls herself a poet by signing the promotional messages for her album “the president of the Department of Tortured Poets”. But she didn’t wait for her new album to write songs comparable to poems in verse or prose. From the start of her career in 2005, Taylor Swift was noted for her talents as a lyricist.

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So much so that today, several universities, including the prestigious Harvard and Stanford, offer courses in analyzing the lyrics of his songs, in the same way as great literary texts.

Taylor Swift, star of literary studies

Elly McCausland, professor of English literature at Ghent University in Belgium, and creator of the site Swifterature, is the first to give a course on Taylor Swift in Europe. For her, calling the star a poet is not surprising. “Going back several centuries, poetry was an oral medium, spoken before being written, and often set to music. In a way, Taylor Swift returns to the roots of poetry »she said to HuffPost in the video at the top of the article.

Although all songwriters can, in some sense, be considered poets, Taylor Swift is a particularly relevant subject of study for literature teachers. Already, because she gives them a lot of material with her 243 songs (according to the accounts of Rolling Stone), all of which she wrote or co-wrote.

But it is above all his sophisticated writing style, without seeming to be so, which is well suited to analysis. Elly McCausland, for example, highlights her use of complex English vocabulary and literary techniques that are often associated with classical poetry. “She uses a lot of metaphors and similes, what we call figurative languagenotes the professor. But she does it in a way that we don’t even think about it. It’s subtle. His songs are made of layers, and when you peel them back, you find lots of interesting ideas. »

Poetic pop

His albums folklore And evermore, released by surprise in the middle of the Covid pandemic, delighted critics and non-followers of the singer, thanks to their folk instrumentalization and their very poetic lyrics. These also inspired the game “Shakespeare or Taylor Swift” on TikTok, where students have to guess whether a phrase comes from the pen of William Shakespeare or Taylor Swift.

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But even in his more pop songs and “simple”, Taylor Swift works meticulously on her lyrics. “ She’s good at taking common idioms or concepts and playing with them.”explains Elly McCausland, quoting the song Out of the woods from the album 1989.

In English, the expression “we are out of the woods” (literally “we are out of the woods”) means to be safe, that the hardest part is over. “She explores this metaphor from a literal point of view. She talks about the woods, in the first sense. She sings “the monsters turned out to be just trees” and in the music video she runs through a dark forest which attacks her and the branches wrap around her.explains the professor.

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“She takes a phrase that we use a lot in English and she explores its roots, no pun intended, and what happens when you literalize an idiomatic expression”, continues the expert. To the untrained listener, and even more so to non-English speakers, Taylor Swift’s music may appear on the surface to be “just catchy songs about love, relationships, life”but according to Elly McCausland, “they deserve further reading”.

The Tortured Poets Departmentthe most poetic album?

With The Tortured Poets Department, no need to dig very far: she embraces her image as a poet and no longer hides her literary references. One of the bonus songs is called for example The Albatrossdirect reference to the poem The Old Sailor’s Lament by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, or even The Albatross by Charles Baudelaire.

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Before discovering it this April 19, fans and academics imagined an even more poetic album, in the continuity of folklore And evermore. Elly McCausland also expects a work “very meta” with songs in which Taylor Swift writes about writing.

“I wonder if she hasn’t seen all the interest she’s aroused academically over the last two years and if she isn’t making fun of us in a certain way, saying to herself ‘I’m going to give these teachers what to talk about”, asks the literature professor, laughing. The singer, and promotion queen, seems to be well aware of her image as a modern-day poet.

She has been playing it voluntarily since the announcement of her new album, as evidenced by the library full of books and manuscripts that she had installed in the heart of Los Angeles. With The Tortured Poets Department, Taylor Swift is looking to show off her writing talents as much as getting people to listen to them. As she writes so well: “Anything goes in love and poetry”. And in communication too.

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