Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Is Taylor Swift Our Generation's Confessional Poet?

I love Taylor Swift. She's funny, sweet, a great writer, and so stinkin' adorable. But the other day while listening to 1989, I had a thought, "Is Taylor Swift the new breed of confessional poet?" I think she is.
Ah, Yes! A perfect spokeswomen for our generation.

So, some examples of poets who have been labeled as confessional poets that you are probably familiar with are Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton. Both women were labeled as confessional poets and each had a impossible time shedding that label, Sexton was not a fan of the label at all. 

What is a confessional poet? A poet who makes confessions in their poetry, or writes autobiographical poetry. Are you starting to see where I'm coming from? A lot of  Plath's poetry deals with images or themes relating to death so people love to read her poetry as one long suicide note or proof of Plath's instability or obsession with death, blah blah blah. And while Plath did write some poems from a place of personal experience, it doesn't necessarily mean every poem was autobiographical. Taylor Swift has often talked about writing her songs from personal experience and the public loves to guess which hot Hollywood hunk each of her songs is about. 

Another shared trait Swift shares with confessional poets is how they are viewed. People read Plath's poetry and judged her as a person based on the poetry because they assumed every single thing she wrote was something she had experienced. People tend to label Swift based on her music as well, and I love that she tackles that issue on 1989 with Shake it Off and Blank Space

Because is that really fair to believe that an artist has to have a first hand encounter with everything they write about? Because an author writes a poem about two men in love, they are stating that they themselves are gay? No that's silly. And that is what some people are doing to Taylor Swift, each song she writes has to correlate to a specific relationship she has had, and then because we feel this way, we decide she dates to many boys. 

So, I guess the point to this post, besides the fact that Taylor Swift is the new Sylvia Plath, is be careful when reading an author's work, or listening to music or whatever, not to try and apply the author and the author's life to the work. Separate the art from the artist and don't limit yourself to one interpretation. 

What do you guys think? Is T-Swift our generation's confessional poet? Do you love her? Hate her? Let me know your thoughts! 


  1. It's amazing to me how people can take any kind of artistry and paint it with such a literal brush all the time. And while I'm sure many artists are inspired by their own personal events, many are also just influenced by experiences of friends, family, and just the things going on in the world. Taylor is a young, sweet, woman. Folks need to live and let live and stop analyzing every aspect of these celebrities lives.

    1. Exactly! It's ridiculous to view artists as just their art and not people! I think celebrity culture is a very weird and creepy phenomenon in itself- and a topic for another day!
      Thanks for stopping by Jade!

  2. Brilliant post, Mallory - I'd never thought of Taylor as a confessional poet before, but I love the comparison. I've been a big fan of Taylor's for years; I have a soft spot for songs that tell stories, and I love that she's finally at a place in her life where she can tell the haters where they can stick their opinions. Her latest album is just fantastic.

    And I agree with you on your other point - I think writers will always be influenced by what's around them, in a few years time perhaps English students will be discussing the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign from a time when writers were finally starting to be heard when they said that representation matters, but not everything a writer writes is a personal story. J.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter, but I'm pretty sure she's not a witch!

    1. Yes, Taylor is rocking life right now! I agree with you, writers can be influenced and inspired by what's around them, but that doesn't mean every piece of work is an autobiography and means to judge the artist's personal life and beliefs by.
      Thanks for stopping by Jess!