Barbara Tran was born in New York City and earned a BA from NYU and an MFA from Columbia University. Her first published poetry collection, In the Mynah Bird's Own Words (Tupelo Press, 2002), was selected as a PEN/Open Book Award finalist. She coedited the anthology Watermark: Vietnamese American Poetry and Prose (1998) and guest edited Viet Nam: Beyond the Frame, a special issue of Michigan Quarterly Review (Fall 2004).

Tran is the recipient of a Lannan Foundation Writing Residency, Bread Loaf Writers' Conference Scholarship, MacDowell Colony Gerald Freund Fellowship, and Pushcart Prize, and is featured in filmmaker Yunah Hong's documentary Between the Lines: Asian American Women's Poetry.