A poetess, in the simplest sense, is a female poet.

Also, in the 1600-1700s in Ireland, the word poetess was used to describe a mistress of a poet or an orator. The word died around the mid to late 1700s because it was considered too promiscuous, and later considered a vulgar term.

Historical use

The word "poetess" has sometimes been used in a mildly pejorative or dismissive sense. In his Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot, Alexander Pope wrote the lines:

Is there a Parson, much bemus'd in beer,
A maudlin poetess, a rhyming Peer.

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