What is a verse biography?

Simply put a verse biography is a biography written in verse. If you google you’ll find more complicated ‘explanations’ but that’s basically what it is.

The academics writing about verse biography compare it to the verse novel or talk about how writing in verse impacts on the truth, or as they would put it the verisimilitude, of a biography written this way.

These were arguments that passed me by. I’d determined to finally produce Margaret’s Story, had experimented with longer form verse on Wattpad and in a moment of realisation determined this was the way I wanted to go.

More erudite Poets, I’m thinking of John Betjeman and Summoned by Bells, might frame theirs in blank verse but, inspired by Wendy Cope’s Teacher’s Tale, I determined, perhaps rashly, it would be in rhymed couplets.

The risk was obviously that I’d trivialise the story but, in point of fact,  I found I could ‘cut to the chase’, eliminate waffle and keep up the pace of the narrative.

At the same time I hoped the difficult parts of story could be light enough to be entertaining. Despite the challenges of her life my mother was irrepressibly cheerful and would have approved.

The result, as I now appreciate, is a form, the verse biography, that is unfamiliar to many and so difficult to categorise or promote. Nevertheless those who’ve gone with it seemed really to appreciate it. Just hoping more readers will give it a go.


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