Aziza Barnes


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. 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. Source

my dad asks "how come black folk can't just write about flowers?"

bijan been dead 11 months & my blue margin reduced to arterial, there’s a party at my house, a 

     house held by legislation vocabulary & trill. but hell, it’s ours & it sparkle on the corner of view 

     park, a channel of blk electric. danny wants to walk to the ledge up the block, & we an open 

     river of flex: we know what time it is. on the ledge, folk give up neck & dismantle gray 

     navigation for some slice of body. it’s june. it’s what we do.


walk down the middle of our road, & given view park, a lining of dubois’ 10th, a jack n jill feast, & 

     good blk area, it be our road. we own it. I’m sayin’ with money. our milk neighbors, collaborate 

     in the happy task of surveillance. they new. they pivot function. they call the khaki uniforms. i 

     swift. review the architecture of desire spun clean, & I could see how we all look like ghosts.


3 squad cars roll up at my door & it’s a fucking joke cuz exactly no squad cars rolled up to the 

     mcdonald’s bijan was shot at & exactly no squad cars rolled up to find the murders & exactly no 

     one did what could be categorized as they “job,” depending on how you define time spent for 

     money earned for property & it didn’t make me feel like I could see less of the gun in her holster 

     because she was blk & short & a woman, too. she go,


this your house?

I say yeah. she go,

can you prove it?

I say it mine.

she go ID? I say it mine.

she go backup on the sly

& interview me going all what’s your address—don’t look!

& hugh say I feel wild disrespected.

& white go can you explain that?

& danny say how far the nearest precinct?

& christian say fuck that.

& white go can you explain that?


I cross my arms. I’m bored & headlights quit being interesting after I called 911 when I was 2 years old because it was the only phone number I knew by heart.





Literary Movements:


Anthology Years:



Ars Poetica

Police Brutality

Racial Injustice

Literary Devices:


a figure of speech in which words repeat at the beginning of successive clauses, phrases, or sentences


conversation between two or more people as a feature of a book, play, or movie

Interrupted Clause

a word group (a statement, question, or exclamation) that interrupts the flow of a sentence and is usually set off by commas, dashes, or parentheses


a comparison between two unrelated things through a shared characteristic


the use of irony to mock or convey contempt