Secret Ancestral Bond: Taylor Swift and Emily Dickinson—Poetic Cousins?

Unveiling the Ancestral Harmony

In the vast tapestry of human lineage, unexpected threads sometimes weave together, creating harmonious connections across time and space. Such is the case with two remarkable women: the legendary poet Emily Dickinson and the chart-topping singer-songwriter Taylor Swift. Genealogy company Ancestry has recently revealed that these two luminaries share a familial bond—sixth cousins, three times removed.

The revelation is akin to discovering a hidden melody in the symphony of history. Swift, known for her evocative lyrics and soul-stirring melodies, is now linked to the enigmatic wordsmith who penned verses in solitude, tucked away in her Amherst, Massachusetts home.

The Ancestral Connection

Swift and Dickinson’s shared lineage traces back to a 17th-century English immigrant—an early settler of Windsor, Connecticut. This distant forebear, Swift’s ninth great-grandfather, and Dickinson’s sixth great-grandfather, unknowingly set the stage for their poetic kinship. Their paths diverged, yet their bloodline remained intertwined.

As Swift’s ancestors traversed six generations, they journeyed from Connecticut to the rolling hills of northwestern Pennsylvania. There, they intersected with the Swift family line, binding the threads of fate. It’s as if the echoes of Dickinson’s quill found resonance in Swift’s guitar strings, spanning centuries and genres.

The Quill Genre and Evermore

Swift herself playfully alluded to her poetic connection during her acceptance speech at the 2024 Grammys. Clutching her award for Best Pop Vocal Album (for her 2022 release, Midnights), she confessed, “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.” The audience chuckled, recognizing the whimsical blend of eras and influences.

And then came The Tortured Poets Department. Swift’s upcoming album, slated for release on April 19, promises to delve further into this poetic realm. The title itself pays homage to Dickinson, referencing the last line of her poem, “One Sister have I in Our House.” In those words, Dickinson beckons from the past, inviting Swift to explore the corridors of creativity.

The Tortured Poets Department: A Journey

As Swift revealed her album’s fourth and final version during her Eras Tour stop in Singapore, fans leaned in, hungry for more. Like a well-worn volume of poetry, the album holds secrets and revelations. Its melodies echo through time, bridging the gap between Dickinson’s ink-stained pages and Swift’s digital tracks.

Perhaps within its verses, we’ll find glimpses of Dickinson’s reclusive musings or Swift’s contemporary introspections. The tortured poets—separated by centuries—now share a department, a sacred space where their souls intersect. As the album unfolds, listeners will traverse emotional landscapes, guided by the whispers of ancestors long gone.

Who is Emily Dickinson?

Emily Elizabeth Dickinson (December 10, 1830 – May 15, 1886) was an American poet whose legacy, though little-known during her lifetime, now stands as a testament to her profound impact on American literature. Let us delve into the enigmatic life and poetic brilliance of this recluse from Amherst, Massachusetts.

The Enigma of Emily

  • Early Years and Eccentricity:
  1. Born into a prominent family with deep community ties, Emily spent her formative years in Amherst.
  2. She attended the Amherst Academy for seven years, nurturing her curious mind.
  3. Eccentric by local standards, she donned white clothing and shied away from social conventions.
  4. Her reluctance to greet guests and her preference for solitude became her hallmark.
  • The Poetic Soul:
  1. Emily’s pen danced across pages, weaving intricate thoughts and emotions.
  2. Despite her prolific output—nearly 1,800 poems—only 10 were published during her lifetime.
  3. These published poems were often edited to fit conventional rules, but her unique style remained intact.
  4. Her lines were short, titles absent, and her use of slant rhyme and unconventional punctuation set her apart.
  • Themes and Musings:
  1. Death and immortality permeated her verses, echoing her correspondence with friends.
  2. Nature, aesthetics, society, and spirituality also found their place in her poetic tapestry.
  3. Dickinson’s acquaintances likely sensed her talent, but it wasn’t until her death that her work emerged.
  • Posthumous Recognition:
  1. In 1890, her acquaintances Thomas Wentworth Higginson and Mabel Loomis Todd published a collection of her poetry.
  2. However, they heavily edited the content, shaping it to fit prevailing norms.
  3. It wasn’t until 1955 that a complete collection, The Poems of Emily Dickinson, revealed her unfiltered genius.
  • Censored Love:
  1. Infrared technology unveiled deliberate censorship in her work, excluding the name “Susan.”
  2. Eleven of her poems were dedicated to her sister-in-law Susan Huntington Gilbert Dickinson.
  3. These dedications were later obliterated, hinting at a romantic relationship that scholars continue to explore.

The Legacy Lives On

Emily Dickinson’s words transcend time. Her introspective curiosity, blended with literary and religious influences, birthed a vast body of poetry. As we read her lines, we step into her secluded world—a place where quills whispered secrets, and the human spirit soared.

How did she become a poet?

Emily Dickinson, one of America’s most original and influential poets, emerged from the quiet corners of her soul to etch her name into literary history. Let us unravel the delicate threads that wove her into the poetic tapestry.

The Early Years

  • Family Roots:
  1. Born on December 10, 1830, in Amherst, Massachusetts, Emily Elizabeth Dickinson hailed from a prominent family.
  2. Her father, Edward Dickinson, was an ambitious lawyer and a respected figure in the community. He served in the Massachusetts State Legislature and even represented the state in the U.S. Congress.
  3. Emily’s mother, though less documented, showed dedication to her studies during her early education at Monson Academy.
  • Education and Curiosity:
  1. Emily attended Amherst Academy and later Mount Holyoke Female Seminary.
  2. Her inquisitive mind absorbed knowledge, particularly in the sciences.
  3. She defied societal norms, donning white attire and preferring solitude over social conventions.

The Poetic Awakening

  • Elliptical Language:
  1. Like a skilled alchemist, Emily transformed language into something ethereal.
  2. She challenged conventional definitions of poetry, creating her elliptical language.
  3. Her verses were short, titles absent, and punctuation unconventional—each line a universe waiting to be explored.
  • Themes and Observations:
  1. Emily’s poems explored themes of death, immortality, nature, and the human spirit.
  2. She observed society’s limitations keenly, much like the protagonists in the works of Charlotte Brontë and Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
  • Publication and Posthumous Fame:
  1. During her lifetime, only 10 of her nearly 1,800 poems were published.
  2. After she died in 1886, her poetry remained hidden until 1890, when the first volume was published.
  3. The poems resonated, going through 11 editions in less than two years, reaching far beyond their initial household audiences.

Conclusion: Taylor Swift and Emily Dickinson

So, let us celebrate this serendipitous overture—the meeting of quills and guitars, of stanzas and refrains. Taylor Swift and Emily Dickinson, sixth cousins thrice removed, dance across time, their artistry echoing through the ages. As we listen to The Tortured Poets Department, we honor not only their brilliance but also the invisible threads that bind us all.

In this harmonious lineage, where melodies entwine and words resonate, we find solace—a reminder that creativity transcends boundaries, and the human spirit sings eternally.

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