Famous French Poets

French literature has an equally rich history, just like many other languages in the world. One of the earliest forms of French literature was poetry, a form which mushroomed during the medieval ages. Historical accounts suggest that poets such as Adam de la Halle had introduced the people of France to this literary form as early as 12th century A.D. Later on, poets like Paul Verlaine penned poetic masterpieces such as ‘Poèmes Saturniens’, which marked the pinnacle of French literature. A few other individuals who played a pivotal role in popularizing this literary form in this European nation were Catherine d'Amboise, Antonin Artaud, and Guillaume Apollinaire. These people went on to inspire many others to turn towards literature and the result was evident in the later part of the 19th and 20th centuries. This era witnessed great pieces of poetry, and the rise of names such as Louis Aragon and Natalie Clifford Barney, Who took the legacy of their predecessors forward. Here we bring you a collection of biographies of some of the most famous French poets. Read on and find out all about their life stories, timelines and also few interesting facts & trivia related to their lives.

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

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 1 Victor Hugo

Victor Hugo.
Famous As: Novelist & Poet
Birthdate: February 26, 1802
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Besançon, France
Died: May 22, 1885

Victor Hugo was a French poet, dramatist, and novelist of the Romantic movement. Regarded as one of the best-known and greatest French writers of all time, Victor Hugo wrote abundantly during his career that spanned over six decades. Thanks to his works, such as Hernani and Cromwell, Victor Hugo was one of the leading figures of the Romantic literary movement.

 2 Charles Baudelaire

Charles Baudelaire.
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: April 9, 1821
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Paris
Died: August 31, 1867
French prose poet, essayist, and critic Charles Baudelaire was one of the first translators of the works of Edgar Allan Poe. Best known for his book of poems Les Fleurs du mal, he is believed to have coined the word modernity and was associated with the symbolist and decadent movements.
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 3 Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Antoine de Saint-Exupery.
Famous As: Novelist, Aviator & Journalist
Birthdate: June 29, 1900
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Lyon, France
Died: July 31, 1944

French writer, poet, aristocrat, and journalist, Antoine de Saint-Exupery, is best remembered for his novella, The Little Prince. He was a pioneering aviator as a young man. A successful commercial pilot before World War II, he joined the French Air Force at the start of the war. Equally successful as a writer, he won several of France's highest literary awards.

 4 Arthur Rimbaud

Arthur Rimbaud.
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: October 20, 1854
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Charleville-Mézières
Died: November 10, 1891

French poet Arthur Rimbaud is remembered for his influence on Dadaism, surrealism, and symbolism. Known for works such as Le Soleil Etait Encore Chaud and Voyelles, he later got involved in a relationship with poet Paul Verlaine. He also traveled as a merchant and explorer, before dying of cancer.

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 5 Guy de Maupassant

Guy de Maupassant.
Famous As: Novelist & Short Story Writer
Birthdate: August 5, 1850
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: château de Miromesnil, France
Died: July 6, 1893

Guy de Maupassant was a French author who wrote 300 short stories during his illustrious career. Widely regarded as the father of the modern short story, Maupassant's stories are characterized by economy of style and depicted human lives in pessimistic terms,

 6 Moliere

Famous As: Playwright
Birthdate: January 15, 1622
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Rue Saint Honoré, Paris, France
Died: February 17, 1673

Moliere was a French poet, playwright, and actor. Considered one of the greatest French-language writers of all time, Moliere's plays are often performed at the Comédie-Française and have been translated into several languages. Moliere had a huge impact on the French language and is widely regarded as the creator of modern French comedy.

 7 Jean Cocteau

Jean Cocteau.
Famous As: Novelist, Poet, Artist & Filmmaker
Birthdate: July 5, 1889
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Maisons-Laffitte, France
Died: October 11, 1963
While Jean Cocteau preferred calling himself a poet, his multidimensional works consisted of novels such as Les Enfants Terribles and films directed by him such as La Belle et la Bête. Cocteau relied on motifs such as eyes, blood, and mirrors, and mingled mythology and modernism.
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 8 Marjane Satrapi

Marjane Satrapi.
Famous As: Graphic Novelist
Birthdate: November 22, 1969
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Rasht

Marjane Satrapi is a graphic novelist, illustrator, cartoonist, children's book author, and film director. Satrapi achieved international recognition in the early-2000s after releasing her critically acclaimed graphic novels. She is best known for writing and directing an animated biographical drama film titled Persepolis, which received nominations at prestigious award ceremonies, such as the Academy Awards, BAFTA Awards, and Golden Globes.

 9 Voltaire

Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: November 21, 1694
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: May 30, 1778
18th-century historian, author, philosopher, and advocate of freedom of speech Voltaire was a leading figure of the French Age of Enlightenment. He often ran into trouble for his criticism of the French nobility and the Roman Catholic Church. He once went to Britain on voluntary exile, fearing imprisonment in France.

 10 Dora Maar

Dora Maar
Famous As: Photographer, Artist, Painter, Poet, Choreographer, Sculptor, Model
Birthdate: November 22, 1907
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Paris
Died: July 16, 1997

Born to a French mother and a Croatian father, Dora Maar spent her childhood in Argentina and later studied art in Paris. The renowned surrealist artist and photographer later gained fame as Pablo Picasso’s lover and muse, and was featured in his paintings such as Weeping Woman.

 11 Andre Breton

Andre Breton.
Famous As: Founder of Surrealism
Birthdate: February 19, 1896
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Tinchebray, Orne, France
Died: September 28, 1966

Born into a family of shopkeepers, French poet André Breton initially studied medicine and psychiatry. He then joined Dadaism and eventually branched out and became one of the pioneers of the surrealist movement. Known for his Surrealist Manifestos, Breton was also a collector of manuscripts, sculptures, and paintings.

 12 Paul Verlaine

Paul Verlaine.
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: March 30, 1844
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Metz, France
Died: January 8, 1896

Paul Verlaine was a French poet best remembered for his association with the Decadent movement and the Symbolist movement. He is regarded as one of the most important representatives of the fin de siècle in French and international poetry. His poetry served as an inspiration for composers like Gabriel Fauré, who composed several mélodies based on Verlaine's poems.

 13 Mylène Farmer

Mylène Farmer
Famous As: Singer-songwriter, Writer, Singer, Actor, Musician, Children's writer, Poet
Birthdate: September 12, 1961
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Pierrefonds, Quebec

French-Canadian singer Mylène Farmer is best known for her hits such as Libertine and Les Mots, and for her collaborative acts with Laurent Boutonnat. Born Mylene Jeanne Gautier, she later changed her name to Mylene Farmer in honor of Hollywood star Frances Farmer, who was her idol.

 14 François Rabelais

François Rabelais.
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: 0000 AD
Birthplace: Chinon, France
Died: 1553 AD

François Rabelais was a French writer, Renaissance humanist, physician, monk, and Greek scholar. Regarded as one of the great writers by Western literary critics, Rabelais is also considered one of the creators of modern European writing. He is remembered for Gargantua and Pantagruel, a pentalogy of novels that are regarded as one of the earliest forms of the modern novel.

 15 Peter Abelard

Peter Abelard
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: 1079 AD
Birthplace: Le Pallet, France
Died: April 21, 1142

Medieval French philosopher, theologian, and poet Peter Abelard was born to a knight but gave up his inheritance to study philosophy and logic. He fell in love with his pupil, Héloïse, but her uncle got Abelard castrated, following which Abelard became a monk and made Héloïse a nun.

 16 Guillaume Apollinaire

Guillaume Apollinaire
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: August 26, 1880
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Rome, Italy
Died: November 9, 1918

French poet Guillaume Apollinaire was a significant figure of the avant-garde movement. It is believed he had coined the terms Cubism, Surrealism, and Orphism. Known for his iconic poem Chanson du mal-aimé, written after being rejected by a lover, he also developed the typography-based concrete poetry in the collection Calligrammes.

 17 Michel Houellebecq

Michel Houellebecq
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: February 26, 1956
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Saint Pierre, Réunion

Michel Houellebecq is a French author known for his novels, essays, and poems. He also occasionally makes films. As controversial as he is popular, he has been accused of obscenity, misogyny, racism, and Islamophobia. His works generally receive positive responses and some critics consider him one of the greatest living authors today. He is a recipient of the Prix Goncourt. 

 18 Savitri Devi

Savitri Devi
Famous As: Writer, Poet
Birthdate: September 30, 1905
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Lyon, France
Died: October 22, 1982

Born in Lyon, Frenchwoman Maximiani Julia Portas later changed her name to Savitri Devi and adopted Nazism. The ardent cat lover earned a PhD in philosophy and later acquired Greek nationality and served as an Axis spy. She claimed Adolf Hitler was an avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu.

 19 Christine de Pizan

Christine de Pizan.
Famous As: Poet & Author
Birthdate: 1364 AD
Birthplace: Republic of Venice
Died: 1430 AD
Christine de Pizan took up writing at 25, primarily to support her three children following her husband’s death. Starting with ballads, she later narrated the heroics of women in masterpieces such as The Book of the City of Ladies. She was also a court poet of French king Charles VI.

 20 Jean Genet

Jean Genet.
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: December 19, 1910
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: April 15, 1986

Jean Genet was a French playwright, novelist, essayist, poet, and political activist. Genet is best remembered for his transformation into a writer and playwright after spending his early life as a petty criminal and vagabond. His best-known works include novels, such as Our Lady of the Flowers and The Thief's Journal.

 21 Bertrand Cantat

Bertrand Cantat
Famous As: Singer, Guitarist, Lyricist, Singer-songwriter, Poet
Birthdate: March 5, 1964
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Pau

Former frontman of the French rock band Noir Désir, Bertrand Cantat made headlines when he beat his girlfriend actor Marie Trintignant to death in a Lithuanian hotel. His sentence of 8 years was later commuted to 4. His ex-wife Krisztina Rády later committed suicide in his presence at her home.

 22 Jean de La Fontaine

Jean de La Fontaine
Famous As: Fabulist
Birthdate: July 8, 1621
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Château-Thierry, Champagne, France
Died: April 13, 1695

Seventeenth-century French author Jean de La Fontaine is best remembered for his Fables. Initially a forest inspector, he later attended the salons of aristocratic patrons, where he met scholars, authors, and philosophers. Though he faced royal opposition, he was eventually made a part of the French Academy.

 23 Stéphane Mallarmé

Stéphane Mallarmé.
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: March 18, 1842
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Paris
Died: September 9, 1898

Stéphane Mallarmé was a French poet whose work inspired many artistic schools of the 20th century like Surrealism, Futurism, Dadaism, and Cubism. Over the years, his poetry has also served as an inspiration for many musical pieces, including Claude Debussy's Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun. Mallarmé's work also influenced Man Ray's film, Les Mystères du Château de Dé.

 24 Aime Cesaire

Aime Cesaire
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: June 26, 1913
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Basse-Pointe, Martinique, France
Died: April 17, 2008

 25 Emmanuelle Riva

Emmanuelle Riva
Famous As: Actor, Photographer, Poet
Birthdate: February 24, 1927
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Cheniménil
Died: January 27, 2017

 26 Tristan Tzara

Tristan Tzara
Famous As: Art collector, Poet, Writer, Diplomat, Film director, Translator, Playwright, Essayist, Composer, Musician, Performance artist, Literary critic
Birthdate: April 16, 1896
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Moineşti
Died: December 25, 1963

 27 Jean Arp

Jean Arp
Famous As: Sculptor
Birthdate: September 16, 1886
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Strasbourg, France
Died: June 7, 1966

Jean Arp was born in Strasbourg, to a German father and a French mother. After studying art in Paris and Switzerland, he co-created The Modern Alliance and participated in the Dada and Abstraction-Création movements. An avant-garde painter and sculptor, he also experimented with media such as embroidery.

 28 Guillaume de Machaut

Guillaume de Machaut
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: 1300 AD
Birthplace: Reims
Died: April 13, 1377

 29 Alphonse Daudet

Alphonse Daudet.
Famous As: Novelist, Short story writer, playwright, poet
Birthdate: May 13, 1840
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Nîmes, France
Died: December 16, 1897

Alphonse Daudet was a French novelist whose books are still widely read in France. He often collaborated with his wife Julia Daudet, a famous writer, poet, and journalist. Today, several schools and colleges in France are named in his honor.

 30 Paul Valery

Paul Valery.
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: October 30, 1871
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Sète
Died: July 20, 1945

Paul Valery was a French poet, philosopher, and essayist. Thanks to his immense contribution to literature, Valery received several nominations for the prestigious Nobel Prize in Literature. The title of the 2013 Japanese animated historical drama film The Wind Rises was inspired by one of Paul Valery's verses. Also, his poem Palme inspired James Merrill's celebrated poem, Lost in Translation.

 31 Chris Marker

Chris Marker
Famous As: Film producer, Film critic, Film director, Photographer, Artist, Screenwriter, Film editor, Television producer, Multimedia artist, Journalist, Cinematographer, Teacher, Poet
Birthdate: July 29, 1921
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Neuilly-sur-Seine
Died: July 29, 2012

 32 Paul Éluard

Paul Éluard
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: December 14, 1895
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Saint-Denis, France
Died: November 18, 1952

 33 Boris Vian

Boris Vian
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: March 10, 1920
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Ville-d'Avray, Hauts-de-Seine, France
Died: June 23, 1959

 34 Francis Picabia

Francis Picabia
Famous As: Painter
Birthdate: January 22, 1879
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: November 30, 1953

 35 Alphonse de Lamartine

Alphonse de Lamartine.
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: October 21, 1790
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Mâcon
Died: February 28, 1869

French poet and historian Alphonse de Lamartine is best remembered for his collection of poems Méditations poétiques. He was a chief force behind the formation of the Second Republic of France. The allowances he gave his sisters depleted his finances, and he died struggling and in oblivion.

 36 Jacques Prévert

Jacques Prévert
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: February 4, 1900
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Neuilly-sur-Seine, France
Died: April 11, 1977

 37 Adah Isaacs Menken

Adah Isaacs Menken
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: June 15, 1835
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Bordeaux, France
Died: August 10, 1868

 38 Gaston Bachelard

Gaston Bachelard
Famous As: Philosopher, Poet, Writer, University teacher
Birthdate: June 27, 1884
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Bar-sur-Aube
Died: October 16, 1962

 39 Charles Maurras

Charles Maurras
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: April 20, 1868
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Martigues, France
Died: November 16, 1952

 40 Charles, Duke of Orléans

Charles, Duke of Orléans
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: November 24, 1394
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: January 5, 1465

 41 Adam de la Halle

Adam de la Halle
Famous As: composer, writer, poet, trouvère
Birthdate: 1220 AD
Birthplace: Arras
Died: 1288 AD

 42 Georges Brassens

Georges Brassens
Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: October 22, 1921
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Sète, France
Died: October 29, 1981

 43 Alfred de Musset

Alfred de Musset.
Famous As: Dramatist, Poet, Novelist
Birthdate: December 11, 1810
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: May 2, 1857

French playwright and author Alfred de Musset is best remembered for his autobiographical The Confession of a Child of the Century. Though he was supposedly part of the Romantic movement, many of his works satirized the movement. He stopped allowing his plays to be staged after The Venetian Night flopped.

 44 Alfred Jarry

Alfred Jarry
Famous As: Playwright, Writer, Poet, Novelist
Birthdate: September 8, 1873
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Laval
Died: November 1, 1907

 45 François Villon

François Villon
Famous As: poet, writer
Birthdate: April 1, 1431
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Paris
Died: 1464 AD

 46 Marguerite Yourcenar

Marguerite Yourcenar
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: June 8, 1903
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Brussels, Belgium
Died: December 17, 1987

 47 Eliphas Levi

Eliphas Levi
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: February 8, 1810
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: May 31, 1875
Alphonse Louis Constant, better known by his pseudonym, Eliphas Levi, had abandoned his wish to become a Catholic priest to become a famed magician, occultist, and author of the 19th century. He is best remembered for his iconic work Transcendental Magic, its Doctrine and Ritual and his theory of magic. 

 48 Henrik, Prince Consort of Denmark

Henrik, Prince Consort of Denmark
Famous As: Poet, Writer, Visual artist, Pianist
Birthdate: June 11, 1934
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Talence

Prince Henrik, husband of Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, was a skilled winemaker and a talented poet, known for his flamboyant lifestyle. He had often publicly expressed his unhappiness over not being named a king and also declared he wouldn’t want to be buried next to his wife.

 49 Charles of Valois

Charles of Valois
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: March 12, 1270
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Vincennes
Died: December 16, 1325

 50 Edmond Rostand

Edmond Rostand
Famous As: Playwright, Writer, Poet, Essayist, Screenwriter
Birthdate: April 1, 1868
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Marseille
Died: December 2, 1918