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The Connection between Taylor Swift and Emily Dickinson

by | Mar 11, 2024 | News

 

It has been reported in American media that the great 19th century American poet Emily Dickinson and the twenty-first-century American bard Taylor Swift are related. Since Taylor is about to release an album called The Tortured Poets Department, this news could not come at a better time.

According to Today, the genealogy company Ancestry has discovered that Swift and Dickinson are sixth cousins, three times removed: “Swift and Dickinson both descend from a 17th century English immigrant (Swift’s 9th great-grandfather and Dickinson’s 6th great-grandfather who was an early settler of Windsor, Connecticut)… Taylor Swift’s ancestors remained in Connecticut for six generations until her part of the family eventually settled in northwestern Pennsylvania, where they married into the Swift family line.”

Swift was born in West Reading, Pennsylvania, in 1989 to Andrea and Scott Swift. When she was 14, her family relocated to Nashville, Tennessee to support her burgeoning music career.

Dickinson, meanwhile, who is often regarded as one of the most important figures in American poetry, was born and raised in Amherst, Massachusetts. She died there aged 55 in 1886. Throughout her life, Dickinson wrote thousands of poems, but only 10 of those actually went on to get published during her lifetime, in addition to one of her letters. At the time, though, her unique style of poetry – which often contained short stanzas and lacked titles – was heavily edited to fit conventional poetic rules.

A majority of her work was published posthumously after her younger sister Lavinia found her collection of nearly 1,800 poems.

Her works are heavily revered in American literature and are often taught to US students from middle school to university.

14-time Grammy winner Swift, whose forthcoming album is coincidentally titled The Tortured Poets Department, has previously name-dropped Dickinson when talking about her song lyrics.

Of all the poets to whom she could be related, Emily Dickinson is a great one. Not only is the Belle of Amherst a legit tortured poet, but Taylor’s been leaning into vaguely old-timey influences. She’s said that she sometimes writes in a genre she thinks of as “Quill,” a flowing, old-fashioned sensibility; “If my lyrics sound like a letter written by Emily Dickinson’s great-grandmother while sewing a lace curtain, that’s me writing in the Quill genre,” she said when accepting the Nashville Songwriters Association International songwriter-artist of the decade award in 2022.

People have suspected that Taylor read some Emily Dickinson before or during writing her Evermore album, since the word “evermore” (really “forevermore,” but who’s counting prefixes apparently?) appears in the poem “One Sister have I in Our House.” (The Gaylors are going to have a field day with this, since that poem’s about Emily’s sister-in-law/lover Susan Huntington Gilbert Dickinson. The line is “Sue forevermore!”) Evermore was released on Dickinson’s birthday, December 10th.

Emily Dickinson was born December 10, 1830 and died May 15, 1886, after living a relatively solitary, very literary life.

Dickinson is one of the best-read 19th century poets.

 

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