Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Bio Poem

As a Creative Writing teacher for the last five years, one of the many challenges I faced was getting the students to realize that poetry can be simple and fun. It's doesn't have to be a highbrow exercise in condescension. My favorite poet, Billy Collins, is nothing if not simple and direct with his word choice and imagery. It's the simplicity that elicits the thoughtful approach any poet hopes their readers take.

Poetry is about the manipulation of words to create an image, an evocative image. It's the use of language to produce a cohesive idea that transcends mere writing and lifts poetry to art. That being said, many novice writers may feel incredibly intimidated with the prospect of having to produce poetry. My approach to help desconstruct that barrier for the students is to introduce a formula poem like the Bio Poem.

Formula poetry is a style of poetry that adheres to an established set of guidelines in the creation of the work. There are different styles of formula poetry, some obviously more difficult than others. Some of the most popular formula poems are Haiku, Sonnets, and Cinquains, but the types I found most useful at the beginning stages of my poetry units were poems where the students finished a given line with different information. As the unit evolved, the poems became more difficult because the guidelines became less stringent.

The Bio Poem also served a dual purpose. When used at the beginning of the semester, this formula poem can also act as an icebreaker of sorts. Below you will find the guidelines for the formula, and my own Bio Poem. There are any number of different Bio Poems and this specific set of lines was presented to me at the Zelda Glazer Writing Institute about seven years ago. My intention with this post is to have it serve a something of an icebreaker for the community of this blog. I'd love it if my readers here would write their own Bio Poem as comments under this post. Please share!

Bio Poem

Line #1: First Name
Line #2: Four Adjectives to describe certain character traits
Line #3: "Relative of..." (list three people/things)
Line #4: "Lover of..." (list three people/things)
Line #5: "Who feels..." (list three)
Line #6: "Who needs..." (list three)
Line #7: "Who gives..." (list three)
Line #8: "Who fears..." (list three)
Line #9: "Who would like to see..." (list three)
Line #10: Last Name

Here's my Bio Poem:
Creative, Crafty, Compassionate, Comfortable
Relative of Readers, Day-dreamers, and Starters
Lover of Family, Friends, and Coffee
Who feels Frustrated and Tired, or Happy and Rested
Who needs rest, quiet, and more coffee
Who gives time, effort, and the occassional cliché  
Who fears my imagination, failure, and cockroaches (Thanks, Mom!)
Who would like to see my book at Barnes & Noble, the Pyramids, and the Dolphins win a Super Bowl

Again, feel free to post your own Bio Poem below. I'd love to read it. Ultimately, poetry is an art form meant to be enjoyed.

Here's a link to one of my favorite Billy Collins poems.


  1. Mike
    Simple, complexed, dedicated and best
    Relative of lazes, too many and flexed
    Love the ocean, my family and anything that’s blue
    Who feels more pain than when young, stronger than my son, and feels it to be true
    Who needs more time, more guns and more sleep
    Who gives not enough, yet sometimes too much, but certainly is not cheap
    Who fears the unknown, not finishing and not accomplishing something great
    Who would like to see world peace, big feats and my children’s children without debate

  2. Chris
    Calm, Cool, Collected, Confident
    Relative of Athletes, Hustlers, and Doers
    Love of Family, Sports, Money
    Who feels Bored, Anxious, and Lazy
    Who needs more time, his own business, and mo money mo money
    Who gives a Shit, Fuck, and his heart
    Who fears not being in control, Death, but not someone who breathes the same air as me
    Who would like to see my bank account with 7 digits, the world, and Baby Jesus (after I die of course)

  3. Christina Marie
    Sensitive, Emotional Wreck, Driven and Responsible
    Relative of Family, Sisters and Organic Chemistry (ugh)
    Lover of Matt, Traveling and Smiling
    Who feels over- whelmed, filled with expectations and slightly drowned
    Who needs a break, then another break and maybe one more
    Who gives every ounce of energy towards school, work, and more school
    Who fears Failure, Applications and Organic Chemistry
    Who would like to see the canals in Venice, the Swiss mountains and visit the “cafes” in Amsterdam

  4. Caitlin aka Kansas
    Loving, Hopeful, Accepting, Compassionate
    Relative of the Innocent, the Underserved and the Forgotten
    Lover of Beauty, Simplicity and Humor
    Who feels Anxious, Excited, Ready to Run
    Who needs Support, Quiet and Caffeine
    Who gives Time, Words and Solutions
    Who fear Rejection, Failure and Loneliness
    Who would like to see better education for all children, better access to physical and mental health services and equality for all

  5. Janexis
    Caring, easygoing, shy, determined
    Relative of family, sorority sisters, and Disney
    Lover of my family, friends, and the outdoors
    Who feels overwhelmed, excited, kid at heart
    Who needs to finish a paper, a vacation, strength
    Who gives friendship, encouragement, and a shoulder to lean on
    Who fears regrets, nightmares, disappointment
    Who would like to see my future husband, more justice, a financially secured future

  6. Diana
    Giddy, Emotional, Determined, and Ridiculous
    Relative of Adventure, All Nighters, and a wonderful and extended Family
    Lover of spontaneity, chocolate, and Michael
    Who feels overwhelmed, over excited, and warm
    Who needs love, patience, and laughter
    Who gives my heart, my time, and bad jokes
    Who fears abandonment, encroaching essay deadlines, and some episodes of Doctor Who
    Who would like to see my brother graduate, my family in good health, and everyone that I left in Miami

  7. Sarah
    Silly, Simple, Strong, & Stubborn
    Relative of a Fighter, a Prankster, & a Musician
    Lover of God, my family, & memories
    Who feels rushed through life, tired from the "to-do", and safe in His hands
    Who needs hugs, chocolate, and my pillow
    Who gives smiles, comfort, & laughs
    Who fears time, uncertainty, & David's critique of my poem
    Who would like to see our future home, a safe world for my babies, & all of my loved ones in Heaven.

  8. Ale
    shy, paranoid, daydreamer, musician
    relative of movers, shakers, and the occasional artist
    lover of creation, exploration, and beards
    who feels inspired, tired, and overwhelmed
    who needs freedom, a hasselblad, and a bike
    who gives a wink, a smile, and a nice song on her mandolin
    who fears moments passing, growing old, and bad breath
    who would like to see her friends right now, the Flaming Lips, and her photos in the MoMa. word.

  9. Donald
    mellow, meticulous, motivated, modest
    Relative of... achievers, helpers, growers
    Lover of... Christ, sports, family
    Who feels... blessed, loved, content
    Who needs... water, sunshine, music
    Who gives... loyalty, the truth, sarcasm
    Who fears... loss, disappointing, paralysis
    Who would like to see... our child, a Jaguars Super Bowl win, what awaits in heaven

  10. Michelle
    Athletic, Determined, Practical, Trustworthy
    Relative of the Good-hearted, Uncharted, and Departed
    Lover of Whom We Call Family, Friends, and 8th Cousins
    Who feels Like She’s Got More To Give, Can Never Forgive, and Fossils to Outlive
    Who needs Sports, Books, and a Pencil
    Who gives Love, Life, and Laughter
    Who fears Snakes, Lies, and Phonies
    Who would like to see Pigs Fly, When Hell Freezes Over, and the Sun Rise From The West

  11. Marjorie
    Busy, learner, joker, and country,
    Relative of God-fearers, crafters, and fun-lovers,
    Who loves God, His selections and gifts of descendants,and books,
    Who feels like God's favorite widow, grateful for family,and thankful for friends.
    Who needs more prayer warriors (mine are dropping like flies),a full-time chauffer (how I hate driving!), and love--lots of it,
    Who gives time and effort in Biblical research, advice (even unsolicited,and friendship,
    Who fears going nuts (God forbid!), nighttime (thank the Lord there's none in Heaven), and not measuring up,
    Who would like to see the completion of my bucket list, and all my children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren in Heaven.