From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
A poet is someone who writes poetry. A poet exists within a cultural and intellectual tradition and usually writes in a specific language. Some feel that the qualities of good poetry are to some extent timeless and address issues common to all humanity; others are more interested in the particular and the ephemeral.
In the English language, poets often considered to be some of the most influential and profound include Chaucer, Shakespeare, Wordsworth, and T.S. Eliot. In the Western tradition, Homer, Virgil, Dante, and Goethe round out a basic list. In world poetry, Li Bai, Du Fu, Basho, and Omar Khayyám complete one defensible canon. As the very definition of a canon is political and personal, and the notion of poetry itself is fluid and subject to change, complete objectivity is impossible. Relying on numerous inclusionist lists is a possible, partial solution.
Perhaps no other occupation demands so much thought for so little output, epitomized in the Japanese haiku tradition, which involves production of seventeen syllable poems. Even in other traditions including thousand-line poems, a poet's total lifetime output might fill only two or three volumes. For this reason, poets occupy a peculiar position in society, even when compared to other artists, tending to reside on the fringes of their culture. Even poets who have achieved prominence within their tradition can remain completely unknown in the world at large.
Because of this typically low cultural status, the practice of poetry itself is oftentimes a hobby or side activity rather than the central focus on an individual's life. In the past, bards of remarkable skill might be maintained by a lord or by royalty as part of the artistic coterie at court. Away from the refinement of court, wandering troubadours would have brought their romantic, bawdy chansons from town to town, supporting themselves by passing the hat.
In the east, poets were similarly maintained by royal patronage, and those of high birth were expected to develop this skill alongside many others. Within the tradition of Japanese chivalry, bushido, Japanese knights, known as samurai, were expected to become poets only once: right before death. Thus, the tradition of love poems does not exist in Japan, but the quantity and quality of death poems is renowned.