The daughter of immigrants from the Philippines, poet and performance artist Arlene Biala was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. She earned a BA at San Jose State University and an MFA at New College of California.
In her poems, Biala engages themes of community, prejudice, and inheritance with urgency and compassion. She is author of the chapbooks bone (1993) and continental drift (1999) and the full-length collection her beckoning hands (2014), which won a Before Columbus Foundation American Book Award.
In an interview with Victoria Kezra for the Mercury News, Biala states, "I feel that poetry is a way to honor and serve as witness to those challenges that people face in their everyday lives. To me, [poetry] helps … not only in creating a dialogue and trying to raise awareness about certain issues, but for me to work through the angst and the place of frustration and helplessness about those issues so that I can come back and be grounded and remind myself that there are ways to fix them."
For 20 years, Biala has served as arts program manager for the San Jose Office of Cultural Affairs. In 2016, she was appointed the Santa Clara County poet laureate. The recipient of a residency at Montalvo Arts Center, Biala lives in Sunnyvale, California, with her family.