March 19, 2015

Taylor Swift and Poetic Devices

So I have a pretty big topic for today: Taylor Swift's use of poetic devices. As part of my Intro to Lit class last fall, we had half a semester on poetry and different poetic devices. I wanted to write an essay on her use of them, but that wouldn't fit under the assigned topics for the final essay. So I'm going to talk about it here instead.

Songs are like poems. Many poems could be put to music and sung. And throughout her career, Taylor has made good use of several poetic devices, including simile, metaphor (and extended metaphor), imagery, personification, consonance, hyperbole, alliteration, assonance, euphony, nostalgia, and oxymoron. I went through most of her songs and wrote down each type of device I noticed. 

As might be expected, simile and metaphor appeared the most (I counted 21 songs that I could identify one or both in). "Tim McGraw" uses a simile in comparing the moon to a spotlight on the lake. "Untouchable" says a guy is "untouchable, like a distant diamond sky." "Dear John" describes a guy's mood metaphorically by saying: "You paint me a blue sky/And go back and turn it to rain/And I lived in your chess game/But you changed the rules every day." One of my favorite examples is "Red." Taylor uses a heck ton of similes in that song, comparing different feelings to colors and other things (driving a new Maserati, crossword puzzles, free falls, memorizing songs, etc.). "Out of the Woods" and "Bad Blood" use metaphor in crazy cool ways: monsters that turned out to be just trees and scars on Taylor's back from her frenemy's knives.

Taylor is amazing at painting pictures through songs. That's largely due to her use of imagery in songs like, "Fifteen," "The Best Day," "Speak Now" (how about that gown shaped like a pastry?), "Innocent," "Last Kiss," "All Too Well," "Style," and "You Are in Love."

She also likes to exaggerate. We know that she doesn't literally see sparks fly every time that guy smiles, and it isn't raining forever and always - especially in that guy's bedroom, because, if it is, he needs to get his roof looked at - and she might've been getting a little ahead of herself in "Starlight" when she said they could get married, have ten kids, and teach them how to dream, and Taylor and the guy didn't literally go insane in Wonderland. But that's what's fun about stories, poems, and songs. You can use hyperbole a bit, and everyone will understand the point you're driving home.

These are just a few reasons why I love that Taylor writes her own songs. She wrote all of the Speak Now album by herself when she was 18, 19, and 20. She's written the rest of her songs with only a few co-writers and most of them are only fine-tuning and adding a few lyrics here and there. Ed Sheeran has said "Everything Has Changed" was mostly written when he heard it for the first time. I can only dream of doing amazing things with my writing like Taylor has done. And you better be darn certain I'll be incorporating literary/poetic devices.


  1. Yes... I love all of Taylor's metaphors! I was listening to Red today (the album, not the song (well actually the song too because it's in the album)) and I happened to really be listening for the lyrics, and I realized there are so many beautiful meanings each line. One of my favorites is "All Too Well", because of all its reminiscent imagery.

  2. Taylor Swift is such an enormous talent and I enjoyed reading your post about the use of her literary devices. I use Taylor Swift's songs in my English classrooms to help students identify devices. I love what you are doing here. I'm sure she would be pleased that her songs are appreciated for their structures. And isn't it a wonderful thing that she is enjoyed by the both of us, despite our age differences.

  3. The second verse of Our Song has a mindboggling amount of assonance and consonance. It's not just one or two sounds being repeated but I think almost a dozen sounds being repeated at strategic intervals.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...