Bio Poem: Expression or Schoolwork?

by courtvanhaaren

Ah yes, way back at the beginning of my poetry slam (so long ago, so many delays, thus little improvement. It’s slightly depressing.) I started off with dissing acrostics. After writing one I can say I like the style a tad better than before, but I would still leave the acrostics to nursery decor.

I’ve been trying to keep the mentality of acknowledging this project as a struggle to foster appreciation. So far it has worked. I’m far from being a self-professed poetry lover or poet, but this experience is slowly building to another genre of literature to appreciate.

While this may be, there was bound to be a form of poetry that I would not like. I have rediscovered such a form while scrolling between the differences of the ballad and ballade. (Bah-lahd)

Readers, let me introduce you to the bio poem.

Of course, you have probably been introduced to this form, as have I, in middle school. A bio poem used to describe the author with characteristics, ambitions, and other basic information all within ten or so lines.

The format is pretty simple:(X)

(Line 1) First name
(Line 2) Three or four adjectives that describe the person
(Line 3) Important relationship (daughter of . . . , mother of . . . , etc)
(Line 4) Two or three things, people, or ideas that the person loved
(Line 5) Three feelings the person experienced
(Line 6) Three fears the person experienced
(Line 7) Accomplishments (who composed . . . , who discovered . . . , etc.)
(Line 8) Two or three things the person wanted to see happen or wanted to experience
(Line 9) His or her residence
(Line 10) Last name

So, here I go:


Quiet, thoughtful, creative, caring

Daughter of Amanda

Lover of books, coffee, and family

Who feels sorrow, happiness, and hope

Who fears loss, betrayal, and surgery

Who wants to see the world and document it with a pen

Resident of Detroit, Michigan


Okay, don’t get me wrong, some of those are tricky to fill. (Like accomplishments. I’m far too young to really say I have done anything noteworthy to include.) I just feel that this format is the most basic and impersonal way to use personal information.

I am positive I felt the same way in middle school.

It just has no personal flair, which is funny because the author is writing about their life. It’s a very dry and basic form. Seriously. There has to be a more creative way to express the same information. (Unless I’m doing it wrong. Can you write a bio poem wrong? Maybe someone out there can write a bio poem with style. Hey, I only took a few minutes on mine for the sake of an example. The example in the link is better than mine.)

Aha! I’ve found my root problem with this form: this poem tells of me but it doesn’t explain me. The reader will only get a glimpse of my personality. It’s only one side to the coin. The poem only skimps the surface of my emotions and my fears. Those fears listed are in fact my biggest fears. Why are they like that? It just doesn’t cover enough of the author.

Okay, I admit that I may be digging too deep into this basic form that may in fact be only used in schools (Is there any examples of serious bio poems from poets? I haven’t found one searching yet. I didn’t search much though, shhh.) BUT I don’t believe this is even the best way to get students to express themselves in poetry. I didn’t like it then. I thought it was stupid. I don’t like it now, I still think it’s stupid and I don’t believe it fosters creativity or self-expression.

This form can stay in middle school.

~C M VanHaaren