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Carl Spitzweg : The Poor Poet (1839)

A poet is a writer of poetic texts or poems . Until the end of the 19th century, the term was mostly used synonymously with “ poet ”, and in this context it was occasionally used for “ writer ” or “ author ” in general. Today the term is considered out of date and, if at all, is mostly used jokingly or ironically; the contemporary name is lyric poet.


Etymologically , the word comes from the Latin poeta , which was used to describe the author of linguistic works of art . The Latin word is borrowed from the Greek : Poietes (ποιητής) literally denoted the manufacturer, the author. The verb poiein (ποιείν) had the meanings of to produce, to compose.

Until the 18th century the poet remained the author of poetry, less often of novels . The “opera poet” in this spectrum of terms was the author of operas - today's librettist , in the parlance of the 17th and 18th centuries, the one primarily responsible for the opera (and often its staging). In the course of differentiating between the old, the trivialized market of fiction and the new market "higher", i. H. In the second half of the 18th century, when it came to demanding literature that was worthy of criticism , an alternative way of speaking by “ poets ” to authors of trivial and commercial literature prevailed. In the Biedermeier period , "Poet" then became the caricaturing designation for the failed poet (cf. Carl Spitzweg's powerful picture "The poor Poet"); the poet was opposite to him the author of great works celebrated by the nation. This development took place postponed and less radically in other European languages, which still have the "poet" in the inventory of terms as the author of lyrical works that are specifically to be recognized as linguistic art.


The term poet is currently experiencing a renaissance with a shifted meaning due to the various adoption of the English term poet into German, whereby the English meaning of poet (lyricist) is superimposed on that of the historical German term, with an sometimes ironic accent - for example in neologisms such as surf poets or in art names like Poetenladen .