Akilah Oliver (1961-2011)

Photo by Theresa Hurst

Then I command the stage again, as embodied activism this time a gone time

from a before then if so therefore without pretense this phrase, this constituent,

this color lily I’ve never seen before a calculated blue.

(from The Putterers Notebook)

We have just learned that our beloved friend, poet, teacher, performer, activist, mother, sister, Akilah Oliver passed away in her home in the Fort Greene section of Brooklyn, N.Y.

Akilah Oliver was born in 1961 in St. Louis and grew up in Los Angeles. In the 1990’s she founded and performed with the feminist performance collective Sacred Naked Nature Girls. For several years, Akilah lived in Boulder, Colorado, where she raised her son Oluchi McDonald (1982-2003) and was a teacher, activist and beloved member of the community at Naropa University’s Jack Kerouac  School of Disembodied Poetics.  Recently, in New York City, Akilah taught poetry and writing at The New School, Pratt Insitute and The Poetry Project, where she also served as Monday Night Readings Coordinator in 07-08.  She was a PhD candidate at The European Graduate School and a member of the Belladonna* Collaborative.

Akilah Oliver’s books include A Toast In The House of Friends (Coffee House 2009) the she said dialogues: flesh memory, which received the PEN Beyond Margins Award, and the chapbooks An Arriving Guard of Angels, Thusly Coming to Greet (Farfalla, McMillan & Parrish, 2004), The Putterer’s Notebook (Belladonna 2006), “a(A)ugust” (Yo-Yo Labs, 2007) and A Collection of Objects (Tente 2010). She read and performed her work as a solo artist throughout the United States and collaborated with a variety of artists and musicians including Tyler Burba, Anne Waldman, Ambrose Bye and Rasul Siddik. She was artist in residence at Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center in Los Angeles, and received grants from the California Arts Council, The Flintridge Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation. Among her many projects, she was  writing a book-length theory of lamentation.

We feel this loss deeply, in all the communities where Akilah shared her energy, strength, life, wisdom and spirit. Information about services and memorial will be forthcoming.