Poet and performer Aziza Barnes was born in Los Angeles. She earned a BFA from New York University and is currently an MFA candidate at the University of Mississippi. She is author of the chapbook me Aunt Jemima and the nailgun (2013), which won an Exploding Pinecone Prize from Button Poetry. Her full-length collection, i be but i ain’t (2016), won a Pamet River Prize. Barnes’s first play, BLKS (2017), debuted at Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago. In poems and performances that interrogate and deconstruct assumptions around gender, race, and class, Barnes seeks to liberate and pluralize languages of identity. In an interview with Vice, she declares, “Poems will not save your life. But what poems can do at best is provide you a roadmap so that you can save your life. They're just little maps. If you're listening to yourself—if you're trusting yourself.”
A Callaloo fellow and member of the Dance Cartel and the Divine Fabrics collective, Barnes is editor at Kinfolks Quarterly and a cofounder of the Poetry Gods podcast. Her honors and awards include a Tangerine Award, an NYU Grey Art Gallery Prize for Radical Presence, and an Emerging Poets fellowship at Poets House. She lives in Oxford, Mississippi.