A Poet Is Born, Not Paid

Wilson Mizner? Addison Mizner? Douglas Malloch? Louis Ginsberg? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: An adage from antiquity asserts that a great poet must have an inborn talent that cannot be taught or feigned:

A poet is born, not made.

The dire financial condition of the market for poetry has inspired a humorously modified expression:

A poet is born, not paid.

This quip has been attributed to the playwright, entrepreneur, and rogue Wilson Mizner; it has also been ascribed to Wilson’s brother, the architect Addison Mizner. Would you please explore its provenance?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match located by QI appeared in a Chambersburg, Pennsylvania newspaper in 1880. The pun was grouped together with miscellaneous remarks within a column titled “Borrowed Humor”. No attribution was given. A “campaign poet” was someone who composed verse for a political campaign. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

A campaign poet is born, not paid.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading A Poet Is Born, Not Paid

Notes:

  1. 1880 September 22, Valley Spirit, Borrowed Humor, Quote Page 1, Column 8, Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. (Newspapers_com)