Recently, I’ve been writing some C-extensions to speed up some performance critical code in Python and while trying to setup pybind11 on a project managed with Poetry I realized there was no clear documentation on how to setup the build process correctly. Here’s a short write-up as in how to sort it out.

pybind11 is a lightweight header library to easily create bindings between C++ and Python code. Inspired in Boost.Python but without Boost’s baggage. The project’s documentation offer 2 examples on how to setup pybind11 with setuptools or cmake, but if you want to use poetry’s own build system, those resources won’t be enough to solve your problem.

Poetry has support for non-pure Python projects since 2018. It has never been particularly well documented though. The latest info on the project regarding the support status of this feature would be this issue. This GitHub project also contains a working example on how setup a C-extension build.

For our particular case, we will start installing pybind11 with poetry on our project’s folder:

$ poetry add pybind11

Next, we will add the following section to pyproject.toml:

script = ""

Now, on the root of our project, let’s create It needs to have a def build(setup_kwargs) function, which will be invoked upon executing poetry build. For our pybind11 example we can set it up like so:

from pybind11.setup_helpers import Pybind11Extension, build_ext

def build(setup_kwargs):
    ext_modules = [
        Pybind11Extension("pybind11_extension", ["pybind11_extension/src/main.cpp"]),
        "ext_modules": ext_modules,
        "cmd_class": {"build_ext": build_ext},
        "zip_safe": False,

In this example, we are building a C-extension module called pybind11_extension, using the C++ source in the pybind11_extension/srcfolder of the project. Change and modify as necessary for your particular use case.

Finally, to build and install the package, run:

$ poetry build
$ poetry install

You should see the compilation process being executed in your shell. The poetry install step is also necessary to make sure the C-extension is available during development. If everything ran successfully, the following command should run without throwing exceptions:

$ poetry run python -c "import pybind11_extension"

I’ve prepared a sample project in GitHub with a working setup, following the steps described here. Hope you’ve found this useful and happy coding!