Dylan Thomas, Patti Smith & The Tortured Poets Story Taylor Swift Tells

The Tortured Poets Department album is finally here. Taylor Swift’s 11th album finally dropped, and fans are basking in the glow of her alternative sound and deep cut lyrics. 

The title track of the album is getting a lot of attention: from the name drop of Charlie Puth to the easter eggs about Matt Healy.

But there are two other names mentioned in The Tortured Poets Department lyrics that fans may not be as familiar with. 

So, allow us to discuss Dylan Thomas and Patti Smith, and why they popped up on this album. 

Taylor Swift performs onstage at 2019 iHeartRadio Wango Tango on June 01, 2019 in Carson, California. ((Photo by Rich Fury/Getty Images for iHeartMedia))

Dylan Thomas, Patti Smith, and The Tortured Poets Department Lyrics Name Drop 

You’re not Dylan Thomas. I’m not Patti Smith. This ain’t the Chelsea hotel. We’re modern idiots.

Those are words crooned out by Taylor Swift in the title track of her new album. The song, written by Taylor and pal Jack Antonoff,  was thought to be a breakup track chronicling her split from Joe Alwyn after six years together. 

The evidence?  During a December 2022 conversation Joe and his friend Paul Mescal, they mentioned being a part of a WhatsApp groupchat with Andrew Scott, called “The Tortured Men Club.”

It was a stretch, but at the time, it was all fans had to go on. Now with the album out, and the lyrics right in front of them, fans clearly understand the song to be about her brief tryst with Matt Healy after the Joe breakup.

But what does that have to do with Dylan Thomas and Patti Smith? 

Patti Smith Dylan Thomas
(L) Patti Smith, rocking on stage, performing her iconic punk music. (R) Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, before his death in 1953 (Jason Kempin/Getty Images for Tibet House US/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Who Are Dylan Thomas and Patti Smith? 

To best answer the question, fans have to look deeper into the line following: This ain’t The Chelsea Hotel.

Manhattan’s Hotel Chelsea is a landmark for anyone who loves art – all art. The hallowed halls of the Victorian Gothic building on west 23rd street have been frequented by names like Mark Twain, Arthur Miller, Madonna, Bob Dylan, and the two aforementioned poets. 

Patti Smith, legendary punk poet and musician, lived in the hotel during the early 70s. Dylan Thomas, a Welsh poet and writer, did the same two decades before. In fact, he was in apartment 205 when he slipped into a coma before his death in November 1953. He was 39.  The Chelsea Hotel is their only connection.

Given that these two poets never crossed paths, the callouts to these two seem to be a self deprecating nod to Taylor and her beau, rather than a comment on their relationship at large.

Still, how much better would the song have been if it morphed into more of a Last Great American Dynasty track?

NSAI Songwriter-Artist of the Decade honoree, Taylor Swift performs onstage during NSAI 2022 Nashville Songwriter Awards at Ryman Auditorium on September 20, 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee.
NSAI Songwriter-Artist of the Decade honoree, Taylor Swift performs onstage during NSAI 2022 Nashville Songwriter Awards at Ryman Auditorium on September 20, 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Terry Wyatt/Getty Images)

The Chelsea Hotel In Taylor Song

Very soon, the Hotel Chelsea, as it’s actually known, will likely become a landmark for Swifties to pilgrimage to. And in truth, it is worth of visit, if you want to bare witness to the place where Arthur Miller lived after his divorce from Marilyn Monroe and Bob Dylan penned the song, Sara.

Speaking of music, ever heard the song Chelsea Hotel #2 by Leonard Cohen? It’s about a night he spent with Janis Joplin while living in the hotel. Meanwhile, it’s said Jack Kerouac wrote pieces of On The Road within the walls, and that Andy Warhol shot parts of Chelsea Girls there,

In short, there’s so much art history seeped into this place, we’re surprised Taylor hasn’t written a whole album about it. Maybe for #12!

Patti Smith and Lily Gladstone attend the National Board Of Review 2024 Awards Gala at Cipriani 42nd Street on January 11, 2024 in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for National Board of Review)

Patti Smith Praises Taylor Swift

While Taylor has worked with many legends through the years, to date she has yet to collaborate, or it would seem even meet the legendary performer.

However, like everyone else, Taylor is on Patti’s radar, and she’s actually had some very nice things to say about the young artist.

In an interview with the New York Times in 2019, Patti was asked about about Taylor’s criticism of then President Trump being called “mild and oblique.” Patti was quick to come to her defense. 

“She’s a pop star who’s under tremendous scrutiny all the time, and one can’t imagine what that’s like,” Patti said in Taylor’s defense.

“It’s unbelievable to not be able to go anywhere, do anything, have messy hair. I’m sure she’s trying to do something good. She’s not trying to do something bad.”

Patti then added that the focus shouldn’t be that Taylor wasn’t doing enough, but that she was doing someething, period.

“if it induces some of her avid fans to open up their thoughts, what does I matter. Are we doing to start measuring who’s more authentic than who? I don’t agree that artist and musician have more responsibility to speak out than anyone else. I think everybody has to be more active. Art is inspiring and art can rally bring people together.”

Leave a Comment