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Join ‘The Tortured Poets Department’ at these Swiftie DC spots

Photo Illustration by Daniel Heuer | Staff Photographer
Two students pose for a selfie with the George Washington statue in Kogan Plaza.

This Friday is the culmination of pop girl spring.

After Beyoncé’s innovative country and pop blend on “Cowboy Carter” and Maggie Rogers’ groovy “Don’t Forget Me,” Taylor Swift is poised to end the season with her 11th studio album, “The Tortured Poets Department,” on Friday. Fans expect the record to be in the vein of “sad girl pop” thanks to melodramatic track names like “But Daddy I Love Him” and “I Can Fix Him (No Really I Can).”

For those looking for a reflective space to ride this emotional rollercoaster, here are several spots around the District we predict will fit the vibes of this album.

Say “So Long, London” while sitting alongside George in Kogan Plaza

Swift, in her thinly veiled quest to take down her ex-boyfriend and British actor Joe Alwyn, promises to say goodbye to a whole city in her song “So Long, London.” Fans will remember when the singer declared her love for Alwyn in 2019’s “London Boy,” a song that practically promotes London tourism as it includes a long list of places she allegedly visited with Alwyn like the neighborhoods of Brixton and Shoreditch. “So Long, London” implies a more melancholy story as Swift mourns a relationship and city she loved. Plus, the song is track five on the album, and all Swifties know the spot is where Taylor puts her deepest takedowns, like “Dear John” from her album “Speak Now” and “All Too Well” from “Red.”

Where better to listen to some anti-British rhetoric than with one of the founding fathers responsible for kicking them out of the United States? Join George Washington on his bench in Kogan to contemplate Swift’s lyrics. There’s enough room for one to sit comfortably beside him. If the song gets too intense, you can lean on George’s arm for emotional support. 

Allegedly, George vowed he would never step foot on British soil. So when a statue of George was erected in London, it was laid on top of soil from Virginia to respect George’s wishes. If anyone understands Swift’s desire to annihilate a British guy, it’s George.

Spend some time with the tortured men of the National Portrait Gallery

Swifties expect Alwyn to be the main topic of Swift’s upcoming album — especially because the record’s title shares an eerie similarity with a group chat Alwyn has with fellow actors Andrew Scott and Paul Mescal, “The Tortured Man Club.” If your poetry hasn’t advanced beyond a snappy haiku and you’d rather commiserate with three of our most underrated actors, you can always deluge yourself with tortured men in the National Portrait Gallery’s “America’s Presidents” exhibit.

If Swift eviscerates Alwyn on this album, his career might be over before he becomes a true superstar. William Henry Harrison, the ninth president, is no secret to such a situation, having died from pneumonia just one month into office.

If Mescal and other young hotshots are more your style, check out the John F. Kennedy portrait, painted in an uber-stylized streaky manner. Or if you’re still mourning Scott’s tanked Oscar campaign for “All of Us Strangers,” the exhibit has someone who knows all about quickly falling in popularity: Gerald Ford, whose approval ratings collapsed after he pardoned Richard Nixon.

Become a poet with the help of the English department

Ever since the release of albums “folklore” and “evermore,” Swift has developed a reputation (no pun intended) for having a dictionary in her brain. In her song “Mastermind,” she calls herself “Machiavellian.” In “the lakes,” she refers to her songs as “elegies.” Swift makes SAT-level words accessible to those who scored below 1600 and excites many to reach for their dictionary to discover their definition. 

As the announcement for “The Tortured Poets Department” includes phrases like “talismans” and “coat of arms,” the album promises to have even more sophisticated language. The album’s tagline — “all’s fair in love and poetry” — is a play on the phrase “all’s fair in love and war,” which 16th-century English poet John Lyly allegedly coined

Who else has intimidating knowledge of the English language and literary history? English professors. Let Swift’s myriad of phraseologies sink deep into your mind before meeting your professors for office hours. Plus, you can even set the record straight on who wrote the most iconic version of the “Romeo and Juliet” story.

Put yourself in the shoes of “The Smallest Man Who Ever Lived” at the Big Chair sculpture

This track’s title is likely a callback to Alwyn’s discomfort with Swift’s stardom, which peaked at the beginning of her record-breaking Eras Tour, just before they broke up. The pair notoriously kept their relationship private, a dramatic shift for Swift who previously wore her relationships on her sleeve and all over social media.

Fans have long suspected this secrecy stemmed from Alwyn’s insecurity of his lack of fame compared to Swift. For those who wish to emulate their unstable power dynamic, head over to Anacostia and bask in the glory of a 19.5-foot tall chair.

Once known as the largest chair in the world (a contentious battle within the United States, though Austria now houses the winner), this landmark could make even the biggest pop star in the world feel insignificant underneath its massive shadow. Pop on a pair of headphones and prepare yourself to feel like a microscopic speck of dust as Swift serenades you with a tale of self-doubt.

Spend your “Fortnight” with GWU ESports

If you’re looking for a community to experience Swift’s poetry with, consider joining GW ESports for their next meeting on Discord to jam to the album’s opening track “Fortnight.” Forge relationships with gamers, who may need an introduction to the Swiftie community, while playing Fortnite and spread the gospel of Swift as you battle together.

Just be careful not to go overboard with the celebratory dances or you’ll be on your own, kid.

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About the Contributor
Jenna Baer, Contributing Culture Editor
Jenna, a senior majoring in creative writing, is the 2023-24 contributing culture editor. She previously worked as a staff writer and cartoonist. She is a Houston, Texas girl through and through.
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