Cover star Taylor Swift seems to have accidentally published a poem in British Vogue’s January issue instead of posting it at 1 a.m. on Tumblr and regretting it in the morning, as was intended. The budding poet, who also provided some verses alongside Reputation in those exclusive magazines, has written a new work entitled “The Trick to Holding On.” It contains four stanzas, each seven to eight lines long. Occasionally, she repeats words or ideas for emphasis, e.g., “The only thing cut and dry / In this hedge-maze life / Is the fact that their words will cut but / your tears will dry.” The poem is otherwise free of organizing principles — i.e., rhyme, meter, or a central metaphor.
A close reading of the work reveals that it is about taking control of heartbreak. It begins with anaphora.
Let go of the ones who hurt you
Let go of the ones you outgrow
Let go of the words they hurl your way
The second stanza finds solace within heartbreak and reveals that the poem is also a coming-of-age story, as it entwines the notion of the development of the self with the ability to sustain loss.
They don’t tell you this when you are young
You can’t hold on to everything
Can’t show up for everyone
You pick your poison
Or your cure
If this were a sonnet, the key turn of the volta would come when Swift turns outward to the audience and provides advice. (The tip mostly is about finding a Joe Alwyn of your own.)
Hold on to the faint recognition in
the eye of a stranger
As it catches you in its lustrous net
How quickly we become intertwined
How wonderful it is to forget
As the poem concludes, Swift ties her message to her musical work, referencing “all the times / Life nearly ran you off the road” (an echo of “All I know is that you drove us off the road” in “All You Had to Do Was Stay”) and concludes with a beguiling paradox.
Suddenly you’ll know
The trick to holding on
Was all that letting go