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Discover the top 10 songs that refer to books on Taylor Swift’s new album, The Tortured Poets Department. Taylor Swift’s book recommendations are not a new thing in her music, and this new album continues the book lover’s trend. You’ll learn the most prominent references she makes to books in her album that’s even titled about poets. Let’s get literary!

the tortured poets department book references.

Tortured Poets Department Lyrics That Reference Books

Song #2: “The Tortured Poets Department”

“You’re not Dylan Thomas, I’m not Patti Smith
This ain’t the Chelsea Hotel, we’rе modern idiots”

This was the first song lyric that screamed literature to me. The song is about the push and pull of dating a moody artist. Dylan Thomas was, in fact, a famous poet known for being drunken and doomed. He was staying at New York’s Chelsea Hotel, popular with famous writers, at the time of his death.

Patti Smith is a famous singer, poet, and author. In the popular book Just Kids, she details her youthful relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, whom she called “the artist of my life.”


Song #5: “So Long, London”

“I saw in my mind fairy lights through the mist”

This lyric seems to loosely refer to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, which Taylor previously referenced in her song “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things.”

In Chapter 5 of The Great Gatsby, Jay Gatsby says, “If it wasn’t for the mist we could see your home across the bay […] You always have a green light that burns all night at the end of your dock.”

The green light in the mist is a symbol that Daisy Buchanan is out of reach to Gatsby. Here, likewise, Taylor follows up the lyric quoted with a line about her love drifting out of reach: “Pulled him in tighter each time he was driftin’ away.”

Related Post: The Great Gatsby Quotes on the American Dream


“Thinkin’, ‘How much sad did you think I had
Did you think I had in me?’
Oh, the tragedy”

Taylor Swift has been known for Shakespearean references all the way back to “Love Story,” in which she famously refers to Romeo and Juliet.

Here, in Act 5, scene 1 of Macbeth by William Shakespeare, Lady Macbeth says a line similar to the lyric quoted: “Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him?”

“Tragedy” is also mentioned by Taylor, which, indeed, Macbeth is. Of course, Swift’s song is about a tragedy of sorts—a breakup.

Related Post: Quotes by Lady Macbeth


Song # 6: “But Daddy I Love Him”

“‘Stay away from her’
The saboteurs protested too much”

Here we have another Shakespearean reference.  In Act 3, Scene 2 of Hamlet, Prince Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude, famously says, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”

This reference becomes even clearer when Swift later talks in this song about “soliloquies I’ll never see.” Soliloquies are staples of Shakespearean tragedies, including Hamlet.

Related Post: Best Hamlet Quotes


Song #12: “loml”

“We embroidered the memories of the time I was away
Stitching, ‘We were just kids, babe'”

This lyric in “loml” (love of my life) seems to draw another reference to Patti Smith’s Just Kids. As noted above, Just Kids is about Smith’s youthful relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, whom she called “the artist of my life.”

Related Post: Taylor Swift Song References to Patti Smith


Song #15: The Alchemy

“Honestly, who are we to fight thе alchemy?”

Alchemy is the medieval science and philosophy of aiming to turn metals into gold.

Taylor’s song is so very clearly about her NFL boyfriend, Travis Kelce, as it’s laced with references to football. When they started dating, she turned his season into gold (with a Superbowl trophy) and made him a solid gold star internationally.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is about a young Andalusian shepherd boy, who dreams of finding a world treasure. After meeting a king and an alchemist, he takes a journey on which he learns about finding his destiny.

Since Taylor is so seemingly happy with Travis, this lyric may also mean that she sees him as her destiny.

Related Post: The Alchemist Themes


Song # 19: “The Albatross”

“A rose by any other name is a scandal”

In Act 2, Scene 2 of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Juliet Capulet famously says, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” We know from Taylor’s early song “Love Story” that she loves to reference this play.

Related Post: Romeo and Juliet Quotes on Love


“She’s the albatross
She is here to destroy you”

Here, Swift’s naming of “the albatross” is a reference to The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, a poem by Samuel Taylor Coolidge. There, the albatross brought good luck until the Mariner shot and killed it. The Mariner wears it around his neck, and it becomes a symbol of the burdens carried by wrongdoing.

In the song quoted, Taylor Swift warns a lover of the consequences of dating her. Her lovers and ex-lovers can become vilified by fans and the media. This is why she sees herself as an albatross.


Song #22: “So High School”

“The brink of a wrinkle in time
Bittersweet sixteen suddenly”

“So High School” is another Travis Kelce-inspired song about the feelings and experiences of young love.

It very clearly references A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, the classic Newberry Medal-winning children’s science fiction book about kids who fold time and space.

This shows how Taylor feels like a high school student (a different time in her life) in her current relationship as an adult.


Song #23: “I Hate It Here”

“I hate it here so I will go to secret gardens in my mind
People need a key to get to, the only one is mine
I read about it in a book when I was a precocious child”

This song makes another very clear literary reference—here, to The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Many, including Taylor Swift, read this classic book as a child.

It’s about an unhappy orphaned girl who dislikes her new home until she finds a secret garden on the estate that brings her healing. It’s no wonder that Taylor goes there in mind!

Related Post: The Secret Garden Quotes


Song #28: “Peter”

“Forgive me, Peter
My lost fearless leader”

“Peter” is the second time Taylor Swift has referenced Peter Pan in song lyrics. Previously, “Cardigan” talked about “Peter losing Wendy.”

Here, later in the song “Peter,” she repeats the line “said you were gonna grow up,” which is one of the main themes of Peter Pan. The word “lost” likely also references “The Lost Boys” in the story, whom she directly references later in the song.


Song #29: “The Bolter”

“Behind her back, her best mates laughed
And they nicknamed her ‘The Bolter'”

“The Bolter” refers to Nancy Mitford’s The Pursuit of Love. Mitford’s “Bolter” is inspired by real-life figures from Mitford’s social circle and is characterized by serial marriages and affairs, including running away with other men.

Likewise, Taylor Swift has infamously dated many men.

Listen to The Tortured Poets Department

Now that you know the top songs that reference books in The Tortured Poets Department, listen to them!

Did you find any more books referenced in The Tortured Poets Department? If so, let me know in the comments!

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