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Why does Taylor Swift call out Patti Smith and Dylan Thomas on her new album?

Swift shouts out fellow wordsmiths for a reason.

American singer-songwriter Patti Smith is sharing her reaction to being mentioned on Taylor Swift's new album, “The Tortured Poets Department,” alongside Welsh poet Dylan Thomas.

The 77-year-old shared two black-and-white shots on Instagram on April 21 of her reading Thomas’ “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog.”

“This is saying I was moved to be mentioned in the company of the great Welsh poet Dylan Thomas,” she captioned the post, breaking up the lines. “Thank you Taylor.”

The two play a role in Swift illustrating her intense connection and providing insight into how she sees herself as an artist.

There's speculation that "The Tortured Poets Department" refers to her relationship with The 1975 frontman Matty Healy, which played out in the spring of 2023. She describes a "tattooed golden retriever"; he has many tattoos. She describes a man with a love for typewriters; he "really likes" them, per a 2018 interview with GQ.

Smith and Thomas are mentioned in the chorus when Swift recreates a conversation: “I laughed in your face and said, ‘You’re not Dylan Thomas, I’m not Patti Smith/ This ain’t the Chelsea Hotel/ We’re modern idiots.”

She's saying she's not Smith; he's not Thomas. So, who are they?

Who are Patti Smith and Dylan Thomas?

Smith is an American singer-songwriter, punk rock icon and memoirist. She is known for her powerful lyrics. She co-wrote the song "Because the Night" with Bruce Springsteen.

Smith spoke about Swift in a 2019 interview with the New York Times.

“She’s a pop star who’s under tremendous scrutiny all the time, and one can’t imagine what that’s like,” Ms. Smith says sympathetically. “It’s unbelievable to not be able to go anywhere, do anything, have messy hair. And I’m sure that she’s trying to do something good. She’s not trying to do something bad. And if it influences some of her avid fans to open up their thoughts, what does it matter? Are we going to start measuring who’s more authentic than who?"

Thomas was a Welsh poet who lived from 1914 to 1953 at the age of 39. One of his best-known works is the poem "Do not go gentle into that good night," an extended metaphor about standing up to death and holding on to life.

He was known for his charm and drinking habit. "Dylan Thomas is as legendary for his raucous life as for his literary genius," the description for his biography "Dylan Thomas: A New Life" reads.

As for their connection? Well, Smith once did a reading at Thomas' seaside cottage — and they were both residents at a famous New York hotel.

What do they have to do with the Chelsea Hotel?

Both had a residence in the storied Chelsea Hotel. Many other artists took up residence there, like Andy Warhol, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and more.

Smith wrote "Just Kids" about her relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe and their time in 1970s New York — including their stay at the Chelsea Hotel.

A quote from Smith is on the Chelsea Hotel's website, describing the New York institution's allure: “I loved this place, its shabby elegance, and the history it held so possessively … So many had written, conversed, and convulsed in these Victorian dollhouse rooms. So many skirts had swished these worn marble stairs. So many transient souls had espoused, made a mark, and succumbed here.”

Why does Taylor Swift mention them?

Swift draws a comparison between her and Smith, and the man and Thomas. She seems to put them up on a pedestal.

Sure, she and the man might be creators — but they're not like Smith and Thomas. Let's not take ourselves so seriously, she seems to say. We are not a tortured poets department. We're "modern idiots."