Source: Wikimedia Commons

Every April is National Poetry Month. This is a time for poetry lovers to show appreciation for poetry. For someone who writes, I didn’t know this. I was curious about who was the first poet. Here is what I discovered. 

Enhedunna and her significance

Enheduanna was the first poet. This woman was born over 4,2000 years ago. By the way, Enheduanna was a “high priestess to a temple” in southern Iraq. Additionally, she wrote poems and revised hymns. 

With her writing, she developed poetry, psalms, and prayers used in the old world and led their present-day development. As Paul Kriwaczek stated :

Her compositions, though only rediscovered in modern times, remained models of petitionary prayer for [centuries]. 

Much of the poems occurred during the 23 century BC.

According to thepast.com:

Sometime in the 23rd century BC, a writer composed a series of hymns devoted to the different gods worshipped in the temples of 36 cities across Mesopotamia. These Temple Hymns were signed off with the following lines:

The compiler of the tablets (is) Enheduanna.
My lord, that which has been created (here) no one has created (before).

The meaning behind her name is, as Sidney Babcock suggests:

“high priestess, ornament of heaven.” 

Enheduanna’s father’s name was King Sargon of Akkad. She was elected high priestess of the moon-god Nanna in Ur. This appointment occurred after her father merged northern Akkadian and southern Sumerian as one, which is now present-day Iraq. 

Archaeologists unearthed her written materials in the 1920s, and in the 60s, they were translated into English.  An article on thepast.com stated :

No surviving versions of works attributed to her,” and scholars question her role. The poems are  ‘canonical works’.

Writers eventually copied them for practice. 

The meaning behind her poetry

Regarding her poetry, it was essential in bringing together Akkadian and Sumerian cultures. Also, she combines the qualities of Ishtar, the goddess of war, by attributing her qualities to Inanna, who presided over love and fertility. She wrote her poems in Sumerian. Essentially, Enheduanna became present in her father’s journey to unify.      

In one poem titled ‘The Exaltation of Inanna,’ she praised Inanna.  She wrote the poem in first person, basically inventing the autobiography. 

In the poem, she references the king of Ur, who went against Akkadian king Naram-Sin, and he was her nephew. Here, she gives him the name Lugalanne and suggests he raped a goddess. 

Exhibition and questions about Enhedunna’s role as an author

Recently, Sidney Babcock curated the She Who Wrote exhibition at Morgan Library in New York. It was about Endeduanna and other females in Mesopotamia. It ended in February. 

She spoke about attribution regarding the poetry, and as Babcock explained:

We only have copies, and there are certain things that have crept in over the years, which is what happens with copying.

Furthermore, she explained that the copies were debated endlessly about Endeduanna’s contributions to poetry.   

Depicted on an alabaster disc is the home of Nanna. Enheduanna’s name is inscribed on the back. There is a depiction on the front beside a structure with ziggurat qualities. A ziggurat is a rectangle-shaped temple. 

She presided over the libation being poured- at the altar in the front of the building. The disc was in pieces at a Gipar. As Babcock concludes:

I’m delighted she’s having her moment

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: