Poet and performer Aziza Barnes was born in Los Angeles. They earned a BFA from New York University and an MFA from the University of Mississippi. Barnes is author of full-length collections the blind pig (2019) and i be but i ain’t (2016), which won a Pamet River Prize, and the chapbook me Aunt Jemima and the nailgun (2013), which won an Exploding Pinecone Prize from Button Poetry. 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, Barnes 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 has been an editor at Kinfolks Quarterly and a cofounder of the Poetry Gods podcast. Their honors and awards include a Tangerine Award, an NYU Grey Art Gallery Prize for Radical Presence, and an Emerging Poets fellowship at Poets House. Barnes lives in Oxford, Mississippi.