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For other uses, see Poet (disambiguation).
"Poetess" redirects here. For the American rapper, see The Poetess.
Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot - Orphée (modification).jpg
Orpheus, the greatest poet of Classical mythology
Names Poet, Troubador, Bard
Occupation type
Activity sectors
Competencies Writing
Education required
Often with a degree, but not necessary
Related jobs
Novelist, writer, lyricist

A poet is a person who writes poetry. Poets may describe themselves as such or be described as poets by others. A poet may simply be a writer of poetry, or may perform their art to an audience.

The work of a poet is essentially one of communication, either expressing ideas in a literal sense, such as writing about a specific event or place, or metaphorically. Poets have existed since antiquity, in nearly all languages, and have produced works that vary greatly in different cultures and time periods.[1] Throughout each civilization and language, poets have used various styles that have changed through the course of literary history, resulting in a history of poets as diverse as the literature they have produced.


The English word "poet" is derived from the French poète, itself descended from the Latin first-declension masculine noun poeta, meaning "poet". The word "poetry" derives from the Latin feminine noun poetria, meaning not "poetry" but "poetess".[citation needed]


This is about the history of the poet profession. For a history of poetry, see History of poetry

In ancient Rome, professional poets were generally sponsored by patrons, wealthy supporters including nobility and military officials.[2] For instance, Gaius Cilnius Maecenas, friend to Caesar Augustus, was an important patron for the Augustan poets, including both Horace and Virgil.

Poets held an important position in pre-Islamic Arabic society with the poet or sha'ir filling the role of historian, soothsayer and propagandist. Words in praise of the tribe (qit'ah) and lampoons denigrating other tribes (hija') seem to have been some of the most popular forms of early poetry. The sha'ir represented an individual tribe's prestige and importance in the Arabian peninsula, and mock battles in poetry or zajal would stand in lieu of real wars. 'Ukaz, a market town not far from Mecca, would play host to a regular poetry festival where the craft of the sha'irs would be exhibited.

In the High Middle Ages, troubadors were an important class of poets and came from a variety of backgrounds. They lived and travelled in many different places and were looked upon as actors or musicians as much as poets. They were often under patronage, but many travelled extensively.

The Renaissance period saw a continuation of patronage of poets by royalty. Many poets, however, had other sources of income, including William Shakespeare's work in the theater and Dante Aligheri's work in a pharmacist's guild.

In the Romantic period and onwards, many poets were independent writers who made their living through their work, often supplemented by income from other occupations or from family.[3] This included poets such as William Wordsworth and Robert Burns.


Many universities offer degrees in creative writing. While these courses are not necessary for a career as a poet, they can be helpful as training, and for giving the student several years of time focused on their writing.[4]



French poet Arthur Rimbaud summarized the "poet" by writing:[5]

"A poet makes himself a visionary through a long, boundless, and systematized disorganization of all the senses. All forms of love, of suffering, of madness; he searches himself, he exhausts within himself all poisons, and preserves their quintessences. Unspeakable torment, where he will need the greatest faith, a superhuman strength, where he becomes all men: the great invalid, the great criminal, the great accursed—and the Supreme Scientist! For he attains the unknown! Because he has cultivated his soul, already rich, more than anyone! He attains the unknown, and, if demented, he finally loses the understanding of his visions, he will at least have seen them! So what if he is destroyed in his ecstatic flight through things unheard of, unnameable: other horrible workers will come; they will begin at the horizons where the first one has fallen!"

William Wordsworth described (The Prelude Book 1) the poet's task as:

"A present joy the matter of a song,
Pour forth that day my soul in measured strains
That would not be forgotten and are here

Marianne Moore described the poet's job as creating "imaginary gardens with real toads in them".

Many poets such as Virgil in the Aeneid and John Milton in Paradise Lost invoked the aid of a Muse.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Orban, Clara Elizabeth (1997). The Culture of Fragments: Word and Images in Futurism and Surrealism. Rodopi. p. 3. ISBN 90-420-0111-9. 
  2. ^ Barbara K. Gold, (2014) Literary and Artistic Patronage in Ancient Rome", University of Texas Press
  3. ^ Peter T. Murphy (2005) "Poetry as an Occupation and an Art in Britain" Cambridge University Press
  4. ^ Nikki Moustaki (2001), The Complete Idiot's Guide to Writing Poetry, Penguin.
  5. ^ Rimbaud, Arthur (1957). Louise Varèse, ed. Illuminations, and Other Prose Poems. New Directions Publishing. p. xxx. OCLC 6555779. 

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