Akilah Oliver

Akilah Oliver (1961 – 2011) was born in L.A. Our beloved friend, poet, teacher, performer, activist, mother, sister passed away in her home in the Fort Greene section of Brooklyn, N.Y.

In the 1990’s she founded and performed with the feminist performance collective Sacred Naked Nature Girls. For several years, from the mid-90’s Akilah lived and raised her son Oluchi McDonald (1982-2003) in Boulder, Colorado where she was a teacher at Naropa University’s Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. Recently, in New York City, Akilah taught poetry and writing at Eugene Lang College, The New School, Pratt Institute and The Poetry Project. 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 Press, 2009), the she said dialogues: flesh memory (Smokeproof Press / Erudite Fangs Editions, 1999), a book of experimental prose poetry honored by the PEN American Center’s “Open Book” program, 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 throughout the country as a solo artist and with a variety of musicians and collaborators including Tyler Burba, Anne Waldman, and Rasul Siddik. She was a 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 other projects, she was writing a book-length theory of lamentation. Posthumously, a CD collaboration of her work has been released by Fast Speaking Music and Belladonna, simply titled Akilah.


“Akilah Oliver: 3 Readings” A film by Ed Bowes, 2011

Reading at Parachute: the Coney Island Performance Festival, September 2009

from In Aporia and The Stand Still World, San Francisco, 2007

from The She Said Dialogues: Flesh Memories



September 14, 2016: PoemTalk episode #104: A discussion of Akilah Oliver’s “is you is or is you ain’t”
Hosted by Al Filreis with Yolanda Wisher, Patricia Spears Jones, and Charles Bernstein


April 14, 2011: Leonard Schwartz reads “laughter from the altar” from A Toast in the House of Friends
Cross Cultural Poetics radio show, Episode 234: Redemptive Forms


April 18, 2009: Reading, Segue Series, Bowery Poetry Club, New York, NY


November 7, 2007: Reading, St. Mark’s Poetry Project, New York, NY (part 1)


November 7, 2007: Reading, St. Mark’s Poetry Project, New York, NY (part 2)


January 6, 2007: Reading, Segue Series, Bowery Poetry Club, New York, NY


December 12, 2006: Memorial Tribute Reading for kari edwards; Akilah Oliver and Erica Hunt read
Belladonna* Series, Dixon Place, New York, NY


June 23, 2003: Panel, Naropa Summer Writing Program, Boulder, CO
Panilists: Eleni Sikelianos, Joanne Kyger, Akilah Oliver, and Anne Waldman


September 16, 1999: Reading, Left Hand Reading Series, Boulder, CO


August 26, 1999: Reading, Belladonna* Series, New York, NY