Why Has No One Ever Heard of the World’s First Poet? | Literary Hub


June 22, 2017  By Charles Halton

Ask a literarily inclined friend who wrote the first autobiography and they might mention in passing short works by Cicero or Saint Paul, but they’ll ultimately land on the book-length account Augustine of Hippo gave of his life. We know who the first novelist is, too: the eleventh century Japanese noblewoman, Murasaki Shikibu, who wrote the Tale of Genji. The first novel of the western world? Don Quixote written by, of course, Miguel de Cervantes. We even know the first essayist: the tower-loving French nobleman, Michel de Montaigne. But ask any person in your life who wrote the first poem and they’re apt to draw a blank.[1]

Though hardly anyone knows it, the first person ever to attach their name to a poetic composition is not a mystery. Enheduanna was born more than 4,200 years ago and became the high priestess of a temple in what we now call southern Iraq. She wrote poems, edited hymnals, and may have taught other women at the temple how to write. Archaeologists discovered her in the 1920s and her works were published in English beginning in the 1960s. Yet, rarely if ever does she appear in history textbooks. There are almost no mentions of her within pop culture. No one namechecks her in song lyrics, she isn’t taught in MFA courses, and there are no paintings of her except for a few crudely drawn sketches that float around the outer edges of the internet


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