Taylor Swift’s Red (Emily Dickinson’s Version)

I’ve spent the last few weeks engaged in the gay favorite activity of listening to a new Taylor Swift album on repeat and reliving all the drama of my own life through the strum of her guitar and hum of her lyrics. This time, of course, it’s Red (Taylor’s Version), the re-recording of her 2012 chart-topper that includes all the songs from the original standard album, all the songs from the original deluxe album, new songs, a TEN-MINUTE RE-RECORDING of one song, and a lengthy message from Taylor that I haven’t actually listened to yet, but I have heard her say “fractured mosaic” multiple times at the beginning of the track before starting Red (TV) over again from the beginning.

I’ve been engaging in this expression of glorious self-indulgence while also watching the final season of Dickinson, which worked out in the queerest way because Emily Dickinson is a perfect match for Taylor Swift. Prolific writers who were scoffed at and shrugged off as precocious little girls by the industry men whose names no one will ever remember. Soul-smacking themes tucked away inside rhymes that serious critics shrug off. A flair for the dramatic (teardrops falling on instruments, truth told at a slant, obsession with the weather and the seasons, etc.). Deep and endless gay longing. Er, I mean gay longing. Sorry. Gay longing. Dammit. Longing. Just longing.

In fact, as I’ve been listening to Red — dramatically! — I’ve thought of an Emily Dickinson poem or letter to Sue Gilbert to match up with every song. If we one day find that “Sue” was erased from the top of all these lyrics the way it was erased from the top of Dickinson’s poems, well. I never met a straight person who pines like these two.

1. State Of Grace

Her Grace is all she has —
And that, so least displays —
One Art to recognize, must be,
Another Art, to praise.

2. Red

Sang from the Heart, Sire,
Dipped my Beak in it,
If the Tune drip too much
Have a tint too Red

Pardon the Cochineal—
Suffer the Vermillion—
Death is the Wealth
Of the Poorest Bird.

Bear with the Ballad—
Death twists the strings—
‘Twasn’t my blame—

Pause in your Liturgies—
Wait your Chorals—
While I repeat your
Hallowed name—

3. Treacherous

Oh my darling one, how long you wander from me, how weary I grow of waiting and looking, and calling for you; sometimes I shut my eyes, and shut my heart towards you, and try hard to forget you because you grieve me so, but you’ll never go away, oh you never will.

4. I Knew You Were Trouble

MINE enemy is growing old,—
I have at last revenge.
The palate of the hate departs;
If any would avenge,—

Let him be quick, the viand flits, 5
It is a faded meat.
Anger as soon as fed is dead;
’T is starving makes it fat.

5. All Too Well

To own a Susan of my own
Is of itself a Bliss —
Whatever Realm I forfeit, Lord,
Continue me in this!

6. 22

Birthday of but a single pang
That there are less to come —
Afflictive is the Adjective
But affluent the doom —

7. I Almost Do

Oh, Susie, I often think that I will try to tell you how dear you are… but the words won’t come, tho’ the tears will, and I sit down disappointed… In thinking of those I love, my reason is all gone from me, and I do fear sometimes that I must make a hospital for the hopelessly insane, and chain me up there such times, so I won’t injure you.

8. We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together

Not with a club, the Heart is broken,
Nor with a stone;
A whip, so small you could not see it,
I’ve known

To lash the magic creature
Till it fell,
Yet that whip’s name too noble
Then to tell.

Magnanimous of bird
By boy descried,
To sing unto the stone
Of which it died.

9. Stay Stay Stay

Will you be kind to me, Susie? I am naughty and cross, this morning, and nobody loves me here; nor would you love me, if you should see me frown, and hear how loud the door bangs whenever I go through; and yet it isn’t anger — I don’t believe it is, for when nobody sees, I brush away big tears with the corner of my apron, and then go working on — bitter tears, Susie — so hot that they burn my cheeks, and almost scorch my eyeballs, but you have wept much, and you know they are less of anger than sorrow.

And I do love to run fast — and hide away from them all; here in dear Susie’s bosom, I know is love and rest, and I never would go away, did not the big world call me, and beat me for not working… Your precious letter, Susie, it sits here now, and smiles so kindly at me, and gives me such sweet thoughts of the dear writer. When you come home, darling, I shan’t have your letters, shall I, but I shall have yourself, which is more — Oh more, and better, than I can even think! I sit here with my little whip, cracking the time away, till not an hour is left of it — then you are here! And Joy is here — joy now and forevermore!

10. The Last Time

Proud of my broken heart, since thou didst break it,
Proud of the pain I did not feel till thee,

Proud of my night, since thou with moons dost slake it,
Not to partake thy passion, my humility.

Thou can’st not boast, like Jesus, drunken without companion
Was the strong cup of anguish brewed for the Nazarene

Thou can’st not pierce tradition with the peerless puncture,
See! I usurped thy crucifix to honor mine!

11. Holy Ground

Come with me this morning to the church within our hearts, where the bells are always ringing, and the preacher whose name is Love — shall intercede for us!

12. Sad Beautiful Tragic

Not with a club, the Heart is broken,
Nor with a stone;
A whip, so small you could not see it,
I’ve known

To lash the magic creature
Till it fell,
Yet that whip’s name too noble
Then to tell.

Magnanimous of bird
By boy descried,
To sing unto the stone
Of which it died.

13. The Lucky One

Her breast is fit for pearls,
But I was not a “Diver” –
Her brow is fit for thrones
But I have not a crest,
Her heart is fit for home-
I- a Sparrow- build there
Sweet of twigs and twine
My perennial nest.

14. Everything Has Changed (feat. Ed Sheeran)

Show me Eternity, and I will show you Memory —
Both in one package lain
And lifted back again —
Be Sue — while I am Emily —
Be next — what you have ever been — Infinity.

15. Starlight

I chose this single star
From out the wide night’s numbers —
Sue — forevermore!

16. Begin Again

‘T was a long parting, but the time
For interview had come;
Before the judgment-seat of God,
The last and second time

These fleshless lovers met,
A heaven in a gaze,
A heaven of heavens, the privilege
Of one another’s eyes.

No lifetime set on them,
Apparelled as the new
Unborn, except they had beheld,
Born everlasting now.

Was bridal e’er like this?
A paradise, the host,
And cherubim and seraphim
The most familiar guest.

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Heather Hogan

Heather Hogan is an Autostraddle senior editor who lives in New York City with her wife, Stacy, and their cackle of rescued pets. She's a member of the Television Critics Association, GALECA: The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics, and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer critic. You can also find her on Twitter and Instagram.

Heather has written 1718 articles for us.


  1. I enjoy how Taylor Swift expects me to believe that the word “you” belongs at the end of these “The Very First Night” verses: “‘Cause they don’t know about the night in the hotel / They weren’t riding in the car when we both fell / Didn’t read the note on the Polaroid picture / They don’t know how much I miss you” and “But don’t forget about the night out in L.A / Dance in the kitchen, chase me down through the hallway / No one knows about the words that we whispered / No one knows how much I miss you.” Sure, Taylor. Sure.

  2. I can’t handle this!!!!!! So amazing. “the gay favorite activity of listening to a new Taylor Swift album on repeat and reliving all the drama of my own life through the strum of her guitar” eeeeeeeee!

  3. This is the only post I’ve ever given its own bookmark.(Big AutoStraddle has a bookmark, of course.) My music folder requires it. Thanks, HH. I think you are why I ever gave this blonde prodigy a chance,

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