Skip to content


BiopoemsIn 1887, Herbert W. Bowen wrote this poem as part of a family project documenting and describing that year’s Christmas celebration. His goal was to capture the personality of all twenty-six people by describing each person with a single word.

Why may a single adjective be insufficient to picture the person to whom it
is applied?  The experiment is well worth making, especially on the present
occasion when no fewer than twenty-six portraits are demanded of me.
Behold then:

-H. W. B.
From "The Celebration of Christmas 1887 at 90 Willow St., Brooklyn, N.Y."; Historic New England Archives.


After reading Herbert’s family portrait, list the members of your family and try to find a single adjective to describe each one. Can you do it without repeating any of the adjectives?

Related Activity: All About Me (PDF)