Books

Why Taylor Swift’s Fans Are Sending a Book of “Sapphic Poetry” Up the Amazon Charts

The book is by June Bates—but who is June Bates?

A plain cover of a book called "the lavender haze," and a picture of Taylor Swift wearing a clever disguise.
L: The book. R: Its author, probably. Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images and Amazon.

Who is bestselling lesbian poet June Bates, and why are people convinced she is Taylor Swift?

The short answer is: No one knows who she is, and people are convinced she is Taylor Swift because Taylor Swift fans love a conspiracy.

What’s the long answer?

How much time do you have?

I have an estimated reading time of three to five minutes.

OK. June Bates is a writer who has self-published, it appears, two collections of “Sapphic poetry,” as the unadorned covers of both describe them. The first appeared in May and is called she is the poem. (All lower-cased letters in this blog post are, needless to say, [sic].) Poems from that collection almost immediately appeared on the feed of the popular poetry TikTok account @honey.words, which posts the text of sensitive, mostly lower-case poems to snippets of sensitive, mostly lower-case music.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

And people immediately thought this was Taylor Swift?

No, it doesn’t seem so. As far as I can tell, no one brought up that possibility for quite some time. The comments on these TikToks mostly consist of sweet young people being very moved by these poems, writing things like “cant wait to find this person” and “i wanted this with him but he didnt want the same 😭😭😭😭.”

Well, do June Bates’ poems sound like Taylor Swift wrote them?

I’m no forensic linguist, but no, not really. They’re heartfelt and plainspoken, like Swift’s lyrics, but they’re very vague, lacking the concrete detail that often distinguishes Swift’s music. Swift, befitting her country roots, is good at finding a central metaphor for a song that provides a framework for the emotions she’s trying to convey. Bates’ poems rarely bother: They’re all about the direct statement, in a way that many readers seem to appreciate, though to me they seem awfully artless. It’s hard to imagine Taylor Swift, even cloaked by pseudonymity, ever writing this:

Advertisement
Advertisement

So why do people think June Bates is Taylor Swift?

As far as I can tell, it’s because on Oct. 18, Bates released her second book, which she cannily titled lavender haze.

That sounds familiar.

“Lavender Haze” is, of course, the first song on Taylor Swift’s new album, Midnights.

But the album didn’t come out until Oct. 21! How did she know?!

Swift did announce the album’s final tracklist on Oct. 7, which is plenty of time for an ambitious poet to get a book to a rush printer and into Amazon’s distribution system.

So that’s all it took? The same title?

No. What really made this theory take off is Bates’ “Sapphic” content, which made the book catnip to the many, many Taylor Swift fans who have long combed all evidence for signs that Swift is not straight, as she identifies, but actually queer. (Slate’s Madison Malone Kircher previously unpacked in Slate this obsessive pattern-seeking by “Gaylors” in relation to the “teasing rhymes” in Swift’s 2021 track “The Very First Night.”) Indeed, even before Swift fans glommed onto the book, some had already taken the song’s title and its reference to a color that has historically been associated with gay people as evidence that, with Midnights, she was about to come out—until Swift explained that she learned from Mad Men that it was a phrase used in the 1950s to describe the feeling of being in love.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Can you show me a bunch of tweets by Gaylors absolutely losing their minds over this conspiracy?

Yes.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

(Context for the above: Swift’s favorite number is 13. She has songs titled “Peace” and, on the new album, “Karma.” I cannot locate a Taylor Swift lyric that goes “she is the poem,” but I am willing to take @gaylormidnight’s word for it.)

Is it possible that despite the lack of actual textual congruence between the two oeuvres, Taylor Swift is choosing to come out, a fraught and highly personal decision, by self-publishing a book of unpolished poems under a pen name?

Advertisement

Sure! Just look at her song “Sweet Nothing,” off Midnights:

Advertisement

On the way home

I wrote a poem

You say, “What a mind”

This happens all the time

What happens when people decide, for real or semi-jokingly, that you are actually Taylor Swift writing under a pseudonym?

Advertisement

You sell a lot of books! lavender haze is, at this writing, the No. 75 bestseller at Amazon.com, just ahead of the millions-selling Rich Dad, Poor Dad. she is the poem has flirted with the Amazon Top 100 as well.

So is June Bates rich now?

Well, it depends. According to a source who works in book publishing, a spot in the bottom half of Amazon’s Top 100 means you’re likely moving between 400 and 1,000 books over a 24-hour period. Not bad! But not enough to make anyone rich—not yet. On the other hand, if June Bates is actually Taylor Swift, then yes, she is rich.

Advertisement