Loma’s Tortured Poets Hold Divided Feelings Toward Taylor

Taylor Swift performing on The Eras Tour. Photo Courtesy of Flickr.

By: Amber Paulin

Surprise, surprise, Swifties. On Feb. 4, after winning her thirteenth Grammy, Taylor Swift announced that on April 19, she would be dropping a new album, “The Tortured Poets Department.” 

The news came as a shock to Swift’s fans everywhere, as many had anticipated that the pop star would announce the release of “Reputation (Taylor’s Version).” However, Swifties were not the only ones astonished. Another group found themselves equally caught off guard by the disclosure: the poets (tortured or otherwise).

Poets across the Point Loma Nazarene University campus have expressed reactions ranging from delight to disgust for this album that is seemingly named after their career path and/or hobby.

Jordan Stokes, co-editor of “Driftwood,” PLNU’s creative arts journal, considers herself not only a poet but a tortured poet “until death.” She also happens to be a Swiftie.

“I was shaking like a chihuahua,” Stokes said via email, recalling the moment her mom texted her that Taylor Swift had just made a big announcement.

“I thought […] she announced ‘Reputation (Taylor’s Version),’ but NO! It was an entirely new album. […] The title and album cover made me so excited,” Stokes said.

Katie Manning, professor of writing and “Driftwood” faculty advisor, said she watched the announcement live. Although she does not consider herself a Swiftie, Manning says that she was “delighted by the album title.”

However, excitement and delight were not the reflexes of every Loma poet. Milla Kuiper, a second-year writing major, recently had her work featured in “Driftwood” as the magazine’s first-place poem.

“I saw [Taylor Swift’s announcement] the day that everyone posted it on their Instagram story,” Kuiper said, “and I was like, oh no, what is this?”

Kuiper, who finds Swift to be melodramatic and in need of a “chill pill,” does not take joyously to the idea of a “Tortured Poets” era.

“My reaction, as someone who calls herself a poet, was like, is this going to be a word that I start hating because everyone just applies it to Taylor Swift?” Kuiper said.

Kuiper said if she ever would have considered describing her existence as a poet with the word “tortured,” she certainly would not be doing so now.

In Swift’s Instagram announcement, she appears to be referring to herself as the “chairman” of “The Tortured Poets Department.” Loma’s poetic creatives hold mixed feelings over the question of whether Swift herself is a fellow poet.

“[Taylor] clearly puts work into her lyrics,” said Manning. “[She] considers herself a poet and is considered a poet by others.” 

Stokes pointed out several lines from Swift’s music which she said demonstrate artistic prowess. For example, the line, “now you hang from my lips like the gardens of Babylon,” on “cowboy like me” from her album “evermore.” Or, on “illicit affairs” from the album “folklore” comes the line: “a dwindling mercurial high.” 

“I feel like you can’t look at the lines and say she doesn’t have a knack for poetic writing,” Stokes said

Kuiper too, despite generally finding Swift to be over the top, noted one song — also from “folklore” — which she regards as poetry. Kuiper said that “august,” with its “beautiful imagery” and showcase of “distinct style” falls into the category.

However, Kuiper also said that some of Swift’s work is not this. Songs like “Karma,” “Antihero” and “ME!,” lack the literary devices definitive of poetry.

“I don’t know,” Kuiper said, “who am I to say that [the lyrics] ‘Spelling is fun!’ is not [poetry]? But I hate it and wouldn’t call it as poetic.”

“I think some of Taylor’s songs contain poetry,” said Tessa Balc, leader of PLNU’s poetry and book club. However, Balc — a third-year political science and journalism double major — said she finds much of Swift’s music to be too concrete and lacking in ambiguity to be considered true poetry.

“But I am not the national authority on poetry,” Balc said, “and I think anyone is a poet if they at least attempt to be.”

Still, Balc thinks that Swift is more part storyteller than poet.

The poets have also speculated about what the inevitable “Tortured Poets Department” era could mean for poetry at large. Could it influence the popularity of poetry?

“Poetry as a trend has been a thing for a while now,” said Balc. “Just look at how the internet is saturated in Rupi Kaur’s sentence fragments. I think we might see an uptick in this kind of writing.”

Stokes also agreed that Swift’s album could inspire a poetry spike, in which case, “good riddance.”

“Poetry and prose is ever-changing, and if people want to take poetry and switch it up so it appeals to them then I’ll snap my fingers in support,” said Stokes.

Overall, the Loman poets said that come late April, they will most likely be giving “The Tortured Poets Department” a listen.

“I probably will just because of the title,” Balc said.

Manning expressed similar sentiments. “I’m looking forward to this album more than I otherwise would be because of the title!”

Delighted or dismayed, tortured or doing all right, PLNU’s poets are curious as to what Taylor Swift has in store.