Becca Barniskis is an experimental poet, performer, and teacher based in Saint Paul, Minnesota. She has published a chapbook of poems, Mimi and Xavier Star in a Museum That Fits Entirely in One’s Pocket (Anomalous Press), that is available also as a musical collaboration with Nick Jaffe in both vinyl and digital formats and as a three-part film. Becca’s poems have appeared in a wide range of journals including Poetry London, Colorado Review, Sporklet, Handsome, The Boiler, Mid-American Review, Conduit, Prairie Schooner, and Blackbird.
In addition to publishing through traditional channels Becca works to expand the audience for her own work, and for poetry in general, through less traditional means: interactive poetry readings and performances, collaboration with musicians and visual artists in live performance; recording, and film-making; and distribution of such collaborative work through mass channels such as YouTube—where her work has been viewed by some 40,000 people—and social media. Becca is developing a reputation for exploring more intersections across genre and media boundaries, and engaging audiences and fellow poets through performances and dialog that expand popular notions of poetry and encourage more experimentation among poets in general.
As a founding member of the musical collaboration, Downrange Telemetrics, Becca has performed her poetry to critical acclaim in a wide variety of music and other venues around the United States and in Europe, as well as on radio and live-television. Her mesmerizing voice, angular imagery, and odd characters and stories are at once comedic and sinister, and blend effortlessly with the musicians’ evocative improvisational soundscapes and hypnotic grooves. She also writes songs and performs regularly as a member of Pancake7, a funk/rock/soul collective.
Becca holds an MFA in creative writing and has been teaching poetry to people of all ages for almost 20 years. She has taught in schools and other community venues around the world and is a roster artist for COMPAS, the largest arts education roster in Minnesota. Becca’s teaching emphasizes experimentation with the medium of poetic language itself, and invention rather than the poet’s individual self expression. She asks students to investigate different approaches to making poems: from rigorous exploration of a single word to experimentation with different patterns and configurations of words and verbal expressions that can open up new associations and opportunities to make meaning. Her approach to teaching is innovative, rigorous, and open; she approaches all students as fellow artists and works with them to learn the techniques and concepts that allow them to apply their aesthetic to make original, interesting, non-formulaic art and poetry. In 2012, Becca received the Ordway Education Award in Community Commitment as a recognition of her ongoing and outstanding work in arts and education.
Becca also writes, edits, and consults for a wide range organizations and institutions in arts and education. Her particular expertise lies in helping other artists teach more effectively in their own art form. Since 2001, she has developed and presented numerous workshops for artists, educators, and others in arts and academia across the United States. Along with Nick Jaffe and Barbara Hackett Cox she authored the Teaching Artist Handbook, vol. 1: Tools, Techniques and Ideas to Help Any Artist Teach (University of Chicago Press), a foundational work in the teaching artist field.
Contact: beccabarniskis [at] gmail [dot] com
I strive to make poems that provide raw, but carefully chosen material with which readers can construct new meaning, insight, and experience. I try to expand the audience for my own work, and for poetry in general, through less traditional means: collaboration with musicians and visual artists in live performance; recording, and film-making; and distribution of such collaborative work through mass channels such as YouTube and social media. In these improvisational performances I sing, speak, and sometimes even write poems and project them on a screen in response to my collaborators.