Apollinaire's calligramme (1918)

A poet is a writer of poetry.The English term "poet" is derived from the Latin first-declension masculine noun "poeta, poetae" (literally meaning "poet, of the poet").

A poet's work can be literal, meaning that his work is derived from a specific event, or metaphorical, meaning that his work can take on many meanings. 

Definition[edit | edit source]

Poet (poet) n. Po"et [F. poëte, L. poëta, fr. Gr. (?), fr. (?) to make. Cf. Poem.]

One skilled in making poetry; one who has a particular genius for metrical composition; the author of a poem; an imaginative thinker or writer. "The poet's eye, in a fine frenzy rolling, Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven". Shak . "A poet is a maker, as the word signifies." Dryden .

History[edit | edit source]

The Chinese poem Quatrain on Heavenly Mountain by Emperor Gaozong of Song; fan mounted as album leaf on silk, four columns in cursive script

Main article: History of poetry

Poets have existed since antiquity, in nearly all languages, and have produced works that vary greatly in different cultures and time periods.Orban, Clara Elizabeth (1997). The Culture of Fragments: Word and Images in Futurism and Surrealism. Rodopi. p. 3. ISBN 90-420-0111-9. http://books.google.com/books?id=KbCVyt6MWg0C.  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.

Poet as prophet and legislator[edit | edit source]

English Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley argued in his 1821 essay "A Defence of Poetry" that poets were both prophets and legislators:

The most unfailing herald, companion, and follower of the awakening of a great people to work a beneficial change in opinion or institution, is poetry. At such periods there is an accumulation of the power of communicating and receiving intense and impassioned conceptions respecting man and nature. The person in whom this power resides, may often, as far as regards many portions of their nature, have little apparent correspondence with that spirit of good of which they are the ministers. But even whilst they deny and abjure, they are yet compelled to serve, that power which is seated on the throne of their own soul. It is impossible to read the compositions of the most celebrated writers of the present day without being startled with the electric life which burns within their words. They measure the circumference and sound the depths of human nature with a comprehensive and all-penetrating spirit, and they are themselves perhaps the most sincerely astonished at its manifestations; for it is less their spirit than the spirit of the age. Poets are the hierophants of an unapprehended inspiration; the mirrors of the gigantic shadows which futurity casts upon the present; the words which express what they understand not; the trumpets which sing to battle, and feel not what they inspire; the influence which is moved not, but moves. Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.[1]

Poet as seer[edit | edit source]

French poet Arthur Rimbaud summarized the role of the poet by writing:

I say that one must be a seer, make oneself a seer. The poet makes himself a seer by a long, prodigious, and rational disordering of all the senses. Every form of love, of suffering, of madness; he searches himself, he consumes all the poisons in him, and keeps only their quintessences. This is an unspeakable torture during which he needs all his faith and superhuman strength, and during which he becomes the great patient, the great criminal, the great accursed – and the great learned one! – among men. – For he arrives at the unknown! Because he has cultivated his own soul – which was rich to begin with – more than any other man! He reaches the unknown; and even if, crazed, he ends up by losing the understanding of his visions, at least he has seen them![2]
Je dis qu’il faut être voyant, se faire voyant. Le Poète se fait voyant par un long, immense et raisonné dérèglement de tous les sens. Toutes les formes d'amour, de souffrance, de folie; il cherche lui-même, il épuise en lui tous les poisons, pour n'en garder que les quintessences. Ineffable torture où il a besoin de toute la foi, de toute la force surhumaine, où il devient entre tous le grand malade, le grand criminel, le grand maudit, – et le suprême Savant! – Car il arrive à l'inconnu! Puisqu'il a cultivé son âme, déjà riche, plus qu'aucun! Il arrive à l'inconnu, et quand, affolé, il finirait par perdre l'intelligence de ses visions, il les a vues!"[3]

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Percy Bysshe Shelley, "A Defence of Poetry," English Essays: Sidney to Macauley (edited by Charles W. Eliot). New York: Collier, 1909-1914. Bartleby.com, Web, Mar. 5, 2015.
  2. Melissa Kwasny, Toward the Open Field: Poets on the art of poetry, Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2004, 147. Print.
  3. A Paul Demeny, 15 mai 1871". Abelard.free.fr. Retrieved on May 12, 2011.

External links[edit | edit source]

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