This essay offers a philological career of the term world poetry as poets and scholars employed it and close cognates across the twentieth century (the century in which it first appeared). This career emphasizes trajectories in three of the West’s imperial language formations—poésie mondiale in French, poesía mundial in Spanish, and world poetry in English—but also highlights kindred trajectories in non-Western languages, such as sheʿr-e jahān in Persian and shiʿr fi al-ʿalam in Arabic. Corroborating Édouard Glissant’s claim that “the amassing of commonplaces is, perhaps, the right approach to my real subject—the entanglements of worldwide relation,” the essay argues for an understanding of world poetry as the accumulated philological history of poetic folkways, habits of use, sociological institutions, formations, and conjunctures that group around the term itself.

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