Poet bios are some of the most annoyingly pretentious things ever, entertainingly similar to "the bigger the car, the smaller the dick" theory. I'm talking about the ones provided for intros at shows, not what people put in their books or on their websites. Long lists of chapbooks, CDs, shows, slam teams, features, etc. B-O-R-I-N-G!
It's one thing when the host snatches your bio from somewhere and decides to read the laundry list themselves but when you provide the epic bio, I'm immediately inclined to tune you out. Let your damn poetry speak for you.
A few years back, I hosted a reading of local poets during the Austin International Poetry Festival. They all were asked to provide bios for me to introduce them as I didn't know any of them. The bios ranged from the simple "John is a member of the blah-blah writer's collective and is a native of Austin, TX," to the aforementioned listing of degrees, chapbooks, publications, etc. Annoyed, and a bit hungover, I informed them all at the beginning of the show that I was throwing their bios away, as the majority of them were boring, and instead, I would introduce each poet by name and wanted them to take 15-30 seconds to say something about themselves, completely unrelated to their poetry. The names of their kids, their favorite foods, what they liked about Austin; anything that would say something interesting about themselves. Most of them were cool with it, some even thanking me for doing it. A few grumbled about it, struggling to find something interesting to say. One was completely defiant and openly annoyed, offering his official bio anyway - an unimpressive list of regional journals and the fact that he had an MFA - and, not surprisingly, turned out to be one of the lamer poets of the day, reading hollow poems about nature; solid craft, zero content.
After Friday's reading in Amherst - which had some of the longest bios ever for a group of poets with relatively limited credentials, seemingly detailing every reading they ever attended, open mic or feature - I am going to make it my official practice to provide hosts with a simple, 1-2 sentence bio:
Guy LeCharles Gonzalez is from the Bronx, and has a beautiful wife and two amazing kids. He's done stuff that's gotten him to this point and still writes when the mood hits him and he has the time. Google.
Okay, three sentences. I'm so vain! ;-)