Famous German Poets

Germany has been the pothole of Europe’s technological, political, literary and spiritual development. And most of it has been due to its highly creative, focussed and efficient nationals who have led the country to become one of the most advanced countries on the western hemisphere. Germans are considered amongst the world’s most disciplined and hard-working people. Talking about German literature, the country is home to some of the most profoundly talented and gifted writers, novelists, poets and diarists. Such is the contribution of German poets and authors that no amount of reading of world literature can be termed complete without having read works by German writers. Talking specifically about German poets, the country takes pride in having greats like Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Friedrich Hölderlin, Rainer Maria Rilke, Friedrich Schiller, Gottfried Benn, Bertolt Brecht and Joseph Freiherr von Eichendorff amongst its list of magnificent poet. Each of them and many more have created magic with their verses, ballads, sonnets and elegies. With this section, explore some of the most accomplished and proficiently talented German poets. Their compelling piece of work would leave you hungry for more!

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 Charles Bukowski

Charles Bukowski
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: August 16, 1920
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Andernach, Germany
Died: March 9, 1994

German-American poet and short story writer ,Charles Bukowski, addressed the ordinary lives of poor Americans in most of his works. Since his death, he has been the subject of many critical books and articles. His stories have inspired several films like Tales of Ordinary Madness, Crazy Love, and Factotum.

 2 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Famous As: Poet, Playwright, Novelist
Birthdate: August 28, 1749
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Goethe House, Frankfurt, Germany
Died: March 22, 1832

Regarded as the greatest literary figure in Germany's modern era, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was a statesman and writer. Apart from writing poetry and prose, he also wrote treatises on color, anatomy, and botany. Thanks to his literary genius, Goethe was made part of the Duke's privy council in Weimar and he implemented several reforms at the University of Jena.

 3 Bertolt Brecht

Bertolt Brecht
Famous As: Theatre practitioner
Birthdate: February 10, 1898
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Augsburg, Germany
Died: August 14, 1956

German playwright, poet, and theater director, Bertolt Brecht, is best known for co-writing the play, The Threepenny Opera, with Kurt Weill. Growing up in war-torn Germany in the early 20th century, he had a difficult life. A hardcore Marxist, he lived in exile during the Nazi period. He returned to Germany after the war and established a theater company.

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 4 Till Lindemann

Till Lindemann
Famous As: Singer-songwriter
Birthdate: January 4, 1963
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Leipzig, Germany

German singer-songwriter and poet Till Lindemann is best-recognised as the lead vocalist and lyricist of the German heavy-metal band Rammstein and for the musical project Lindemann that he fronted. Roadrunner Records listed him among "50 Greatest Metal Frontmen of All Time". He has also published two books of poetry, In stillen Nächten and Messer, and featured in minor roles in movies.

 5 Hermann Hesse

Hermann Hesse
Famous As: Poet & Novelist
Birthdate: July 2, 1877
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Calw, Germany
Died: August 9, 1962

German-born Swiss poet, novelist, and painter Hermann Hesse received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1946. He explored individuals’ search for authenticity, self-knowledge, and spirituality in his works. An intense and headstrong person from childhood, he developed an early interest in reading. He started writing as a young man and became an influential author in the German-speaking world. 

 6 Friedrich Schiller

Friedrich Schiller
Famous As: Poet, Playwright
Birthdate: November 10, 1759
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Marbach am Neckar, Germany
Died: May 9, 1805

Friedrich Schiller was a German poet, physician, philosopher, playwright, and historian. Schiller is best remembered for his friendship with Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and the two discussed issues concerning aesthetics. Schiller's discussions with Goethe paved the way for a period, which came to be known as Weimar Classicism. Friedrich Schiller is also widely regarded as Germany's most prominent classical playwright.

 7 Max Ernst

Max Ernst
Famous As: Painter
Birthdate: April 2, 1891
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Brühl, Germany
Died: April 1, 1976

Max Ernst was a German painter, graphic artist, sculptor, and poet. A pioneer of the Dada movement, Ernst played an important role in popularizing surrealism during the early-20th century. He is also credited with inventing a couple of techniques, namely frottage and grattage. In 2005, the Max Ernst Museum was opened in his honor in Brühl, Germany.

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 8 Assia Wevill

Assia Wevill
Famous As: Poet mainly remembered in the context of her relationships with and influences on Sylvia Plath and Hughes
Birthdate: May 15, 1927
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Berlin, Germany
Died: March 23, 1969

Assia Wevill was an aspiring German poet and domestic-partner of English poet Ted Hughes. She escaped the Nazis at the start of the Second World War and eventually settled in the UK, where she got romantically involved with Hughes. She killed herself and her daughter the same way Hughes's first wife, Sylvia Plath, had killed herself six years earlier.

 9 Heinrich Heine

Heinrich Heine
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: December 13, 1797
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Düsseldorf, Germany
Died: February 17, 1856

Heinrich Heine was a German poet, literary critic, and writer. He is known internationally for his lyric poetry, which was popularized by composers like Franz Schubert and Robert Schumann who adapted Heine's lyric poetry into art songs. Heinrich Heine's radical political views forced the German authorities to ban his works, which only added to his popularity.

 10 Günter Grass

Günter Grass
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: October 16, 1927
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Free City of Danzig
Died: April 13, 2015

Günter Grass was a German novelist, illustrator, graphic artist, poet, playwright, and sculptor. A much revered and decorated writer, Grass was honored with the prestigious Nobel Prize in Literature in 1999. Over the course of his illustrious career, Günter Grass won many other awards, including the Georg Büchner Prize and the Hermann Kesten Prize.

 11 Johann Gottfried Herder

Johann Gottfried Herder
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: August 25, 1744
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Morąg, Poland
Died: December 18, 1803

German philosopher Johann Gottfried Herder is best remembered as a significant figure of the Sturm und Drang literary movement. Born into poverty and largely self-educated till 17, he later became a disciple of Immanuel Kant and was associated with Enlightenment and Weimar Classicism. He was eventually ennobled.

 12 Novalis

Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: May 2, 1772
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Wiederstedt, Germany
Died: March 25, 1801

Poet and philosopher Friedrich Leopold, better known as Novalis, was a significant figure of German Romanticism. He narrated the loss of his 15-year-old fiancé to tuberculosis in his Hymns to the Night. He himself died of the disease a few years later. He was also well-versed in natural sciences.

 13 W. G. Sebald

W. G. Sebald
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: May 18, 1944
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Wertach, Germany
Died: December 14, 2001

Born in Germany, W. G. Sebald later studied in Switzerland and England. He gained fame with his non-chronological tales of people traumatized by the ravages of war. His novels such as Vertigo and The Emigrants deal with themes of decay and memory. He died while driving around Norwich.

 14 Dietrich Eckart

Dietrich Eckart
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: March 23, 1868
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Neumarkt in der Oberpfalz, Germany
Died: December 26, 1923

German anti-Semitic völkisch poet, playwright, journalist, publicist, and political activist Dietrich Eckart, one of Adolf Hitler's earliest mentors who Hitler acknowledged as the spiritual co-founder of Nazism, founded German Workers' Party, the precursor of Nazi Party. Eckart was the original publisher of the Nazi Party newspaper Völkischer Beobachter, and lyricist of Sturmlied, the de facto anthem of the Sturmabteilung.

 15 Friedrich Hölderlin

Friedrich Hölderlin
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: March 20, 1770
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Lauffen am Neckar, Germany
Died: June 7, 1843

German lyric poet and dramatist Friedrich Hölderlin was a significant figure of German Romanticism. Initially pushed to join a Christian ministry by his mother, he later ditched the idea and was inspired by Greek mythology. He later suffered from schizophrenia and spent 36 years in a tower, later named the Hölderlinturm.

 16 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.

 17 Nelly Sachs

Nelly Sachs
Famous As: Former Poet, Playwright particularly known for Eli: Ein Mysterienspiel vom Leiden Israels, a 1950 play based on her World War II experiences
Birthdate: December 10, 1891
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Schöneberg, Berlin, Germany
Died: May 12, 1970

Nelly Leonie Sachs, internationally noted German-Swedish poet and dramatist, wrote conventional romantic poems until the rise of Nazism brought about a drastic change in her life. Forced to flee to Sweden, she began writing about the grief and yearnings of her fellow Jews, concurrently translating German works into Swedish and vice-versa. She won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1966.

 18 Herta Müller

Herta Müller
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: August 17, 1953
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Nitchidorf, Romania

Nobel Prize-winning author Herta Müller grew up under the dictatorial regime of Nicolae Ceaușescu in Romania. She was fired from her first job for not co-operating with the Romanian secret police. Her works, such as Oppressive Tango and The Passport, mirror the oppression of Germans she has witnessed in Romania.

 19 Götz von Berlichingen

Götz von Berlichingen
Famous As: Imperial Knight, Mercenary, Poet
Birthdate: 1480 AD
Birthplace: Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Died: July 23, 1562
Also known as Götz of the Iron Hand, German knight Götz von Berlichingen had begun fighting for the Holy Roman Empire even before coming of age. A cannon-fire injury led to his right hand and wrist to be amputated, but he continued fighting with a prosthetic arm.

 20 Erich Kästner

Erich Kästner
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: February 23, 1899
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Dresden, Germany
Died: July 29, 1974

Four-time Nobel Prize-nominated German author Erich Kästne is best remembered for his children’s books such as Emil and the Detectives. Initially aspiring to be a teacher, he later had stints as a journalist and a freelance author. A leading satirist, he contributed to Die Weltbühne and also headed PEN.

 21 Walter Kaufmann

Walter Kaufmann
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: July 1, 1921
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany
Died: September 4, 1980

 22 Georg Büchner

Georg Büchner
Famous As: Dramatist
Birthdate: October 17, 1813
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Riedstadt, Germany
Died: February 19, 1837

Part of the Young Germany movement, German dramatist and author Georg Büchner was a revolutionary and a master of Expressionist plays. Born to an army doctor, he studied medicine but also simultaneously participated in pamphleteering for social issues. He is remembered for works such as Danton’s Death and Woyzeck.

 23 Hugo Ball

Hugo Ball
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: February 22, 1886
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Pirmasens, Germany
Died: September 14, 1927

Author, poet and dramatist Hugo Ball was also a harsh social critic and a staunch pacifist. Known for his works like Critique of German Intelligence and The Flight from Time, he left Germany during WWI to settle down in neutral Switzerland, eventually becoming famous as the founder of the Dada movement and a pioneer in the development of sound poetry.

 24 Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven

Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven
Famous As: Former avant-garde, Dadaist artist and poet who worked for several years in Greenwich Village, New York
Birthdate: July 12, 1874
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Swinoujscie, Poland
Died: December 14, 1927

Part of the German avant-garde movement and a prominent Dadaist, poet and artist Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven is best remembered for her sound poetry and her posthumously published book Body Sweats. It is believed the famous urinal Fountain sculpture thought to be a work of Marcel Duchamp was actually created by Elsa.

 25 Philipp Mainlander

Philipp Mainlander
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: October 5, 1841
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Offenbach, Germany
Died: April 1, 1876

Philipp Mainlander was unfortunately born out of marital rape and was later forced by his father to train to be a merchant. However, while working in Italy, he devoted himself to writing. His works include the iconic The Philosophy of Redemption. He eventually committed suicide by hanging.

 26 Else Lasker-Schüler

Else Lasker-Schüler
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: February 11, 1869
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Elberfeld, Wuppertal, Germany
Died: January 22, 1945

One of the rare female Expressionist authors, Else Lasker-Schüler is best remembered for plays such as Die Wupper. Known for her bohemian and eccentric lifestyle, she fled the Nazis and moved first to Switzerland and then to Jerusalem. Owing to her extravagant expenses, she died in poverty.

 27 Tannhäuser

Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: 1200 AD
Birthplace: Tannhausen, Germany
Died: 1270 AD

Part of German folklore, Middle High German poet and minnesinger Tannhäuser was well-traveled and had also participated in the Sixth Crusade. His poems used the leich style and were probably parodies of the traditional genre. His life inspired ballads such as Danhauser and Richard Wagner’s three-act opera Tannhäuser.

 28 Walther von der Vogelweide

Walther von der Vogelweide
Famous As: Composer
Birthdate: 1170 AD
Birthplace: Austria
Died: 1230 AD

One of the finest German lyric poets of the Middle Ages, Walther von der Vogelweide was a regular at various royal courts. His works mostly include love songs such as Under der linden, apart from elegies and religious poems. He had also been given a small fief by Frederick II.

 29 Heinrich von Kleist

Heinrich von Kleist
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: October 18, 1777
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Frankfurt an der Oder, Germany
Died: November 21, 1811

Dissatisfied with his army career, Heinrich von Kleist had also studied law and math but quit studies later to devote himself to writing. Part of German Romanticism, he penned iconic plays such as The Schroffenstein Family and Hermann’s Battle. He eventually shot himself and his lover Henriette in a murder-suicide.

 30 Werner Lindemann

Werner Lindemann
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: October 7, 1926
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Germany
Died: February 9, 1993

Better known as the father of Rammstein lead singer Till Lindemann, Werner Lindemann was a children’s poet and author. Born to farmers, Werner grew up to join the German Army and then dabbled in editing and freelance writing. He lived at the Drispeth Artist's Colony, founded by him.

 31 Theodor Fontane

Theodor Fontane
Famous As: Poet, Novelist
Birthdate: December 30, 1819
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Neuruppin, Germany
Died: September 20, 1898

The pioneer of German realist fiction, Theodor Fontane started as a journalist before venturing into a writing career at the ripe age of 58. He had also briefly been an apothecary, following in his father’s footsteps. His novels such as Effi Briest talk about the plight of women.

 32 Gerhart Hauptmann

Gerhart Hauptmann
Famous As: Novelist, Dramatist
Birthdate: November 15, 1862
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Szczawno-Zdrój, Poland
Died: June 6, 1946

Nobel Prize-winning German author Gerhart Hauptmann initially trained and worked as a sculptor but later deviated to poetry and drama. Known for works such as The Weavers and Before Dawn, he is considered one of the pioneers of literary naturalism. His novel Atlantis inspired a Danish silent movie.

 33 Wolfram von Eschenbach

Wolfram von Eschenbach
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: 1170 AD
Birthplace: Germany
Died: 1220 AD

 34 Stefan George

Stefan George
Famous As: Former poet, translator, and editor whose best- known works include Algabal and Das neue Reich
Birthdate: June 12, 1868
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Büdesheim, Germany
Died: December 4, 1933

Lyric poet Stefan George was a significant part of the 19th-century German Aestheticism. While studying in Paris, he was influenced by Symbolists. He established the George-Kreis school of literature and launched its popular journal, Blätter für die Kunst. He also exhibited homosexual tendencies in his love poems dedicated to Maximin.

 35 Kurt Tucholsky

Kurt Tucholsky
Famous As: Former journalist, satirist, writer
Birthdate: January 9, 1890
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Berlin, German
Died: December 21, 1935

Renowned German author, journalist, and satirist Kurt Tucholsky is best remembered for his cabaret songs. He initially studied law and participated in World War I before moving to France and Sweden. The Nazis revoked his German citizenship for his communist ideals. He committed suicide, though some believe he accidentally overdosed.

 36 Carl Spitzweg

Carl Spitzweg
Famous As: Painter
Birthdate: February 5, 1808
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Germering, Germany
Died: September 23, 1885

 37 Hanns Johst

Hanns Johst
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: July 8, 1890
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Stauchitz, Germany
Died: November 23, 1978

German playwright Hanns Johst was an ardent supporter of the Nazi Party. His works were influenced by Expressionism. His play Schlageter was staged on Hitler’s 44th birthday to celebrate his victory after the Nazis rose to power. He also led the German poetry academy and writer’s union.

 38 Ulrich von Liechtenstein

Ulrich von Liechtenstein
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: 1200 AD
Birthplace: Murau, Austria
Died: January 26, 1275

Middle High German poet Ulrich von Liechtenstein is remembered for his tales of virtues of knights. Born into a noble family, he was initially a page to a lady and was later knighted, too. The movie A Knight’s Tale uses Liechtenstein’s name, though the character isn’t historically similar to Liechtenstein.

 39 Wilhelm Busch

Wilhelm Busch
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: April 15, 1832
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Wiedensahl, Germany
Died: January 9, 1908

German artist and poet Wilhelm Busch is best remembered for pioneering the illustrations known as Bilderbogen, believed to have inspired the modern-day comic strip format. A qualified mechanical engineer, he later deviated to art. His best-known work remains Max und Moritz, which influenced The Katzenjammer Kids.

 40 Hrosvitha

Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: 0935 AD
Birthplace: Saxony, Germany
Died: 1002 AD

Considered the first German female poet and historian Hrosvitha was a Benedictine nun for most of her life. Her writings provided a woman’s perspective of the history of her era. Her works include narrative poems on Christian legends and comedies with Christian themes written in Latin.

 41 Joseph Freiherr von Eichendorff

Joseph Freiherr von Eichendorff
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: March 10, 1788
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Łubowice, Poland
Died: November 26, 1857

German Romantic lyricist Joseph Freiherr von Eichendorff is best remembered for his epic poem Robert und Guiscard, which highlights the French Revolution. His prose works such as Memoirs of a Good-for-Nothing, revolving around themes such as love, too, gained him fame. He also worked in the civil services

 42 Angelus Silesius

Angelus Silesius
Famous As: Priest
Birthdate: December 1, 1624
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Wrocław, Poland
Died: June 9, 1677
Born in Silesia, 17th-century mystic and religious poet Johannes Scheffler, better known as Angelus Silesius, is best remembered as the author of The Cherubic Wanderer. He had initially been the court physician of the duke of Oels but later became a Roman Catholic priest. He urged German Protestants to adopt Catholicism.

 43 August Wilhelm Schlegel

August Wilhelm Schlegel
Famous As: Linguist, Translator, Sanskrit scholar, Philosopher, Poet, Literary critic, Literary historian, Romanist, Playwright, University teacher, Writer, Indologist
Birthdate: September 8, 1767
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Hanover
Died: May 12, 1845

 44 Erich Mühsam

Erich Mühsam
Famous As: Essayist
Birthdate: April 6, 1878
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Berlin, Germany
Died: July 10, 1934

Erich Mühsam was a German anti-militarist anarchist essayist, poet, and playwright. He was born into an Orthodox Jewish family. He was rebellious by nature and aspired to be a writer from a young age. He eventually became involved in communist and anarchist politics. His well-known works include Die Eigenen and Im Nachthemd durchs Leben. He was murdered in 1934. 

 45 Clemens Brentano

Clemens Brentano
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: September 9, 1778
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Ehrenbreitstein Fortress, Koblenz, Germany
Died: July 28, 1842

 46 Gottfried Benn

Gottfried Benn
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: May 2, 1886
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Putlitz, Germany
Died: June 7, 1956

Gottfried Benn was a German poet, physician, and essayist. As an expressionist, Benn had a significant influence on German poetry before the First World War. Renowned for his literary work, Benn was nominated for the prestigious Nobel Prize in Literature on five occasions. In 1951, he was honored with the Georg Büchner Prize.

 47 Hans Magnus Enzensberger

Hans Magnus Enzensberger
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: November 11, 1929
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Kaufbeuren, Germany

 48 Walter Burkert

Walter Burkert
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: February 2, 1931
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Neuendettelsau, Germany
Died: March 11, 2015

 49 Wolfgang Borchert

Wolfgang Borchert
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: May 20, 1921
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Hamburg, Germany
Died: November 20, 1947

 50 Ulrich von Hutten

Ulrich von Hutten
Famous As: Scholar
Birthdate: April 21, 1488
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: near Fulda, Germany
Died: August 29, 1523