Poetry News

The teachings of Akilah Oliver remembered

By In Memoriam

When Akilah Oliver passed away last week, memories and tributes to her work and giving spirit as a teacher spread out across the communities she touched, from Coffee House Press to Naropa University to The Poetry Project. Below is a collection of stories and thanks from friends, colleagues, and those she inspired.

From The Poetry Project:

Feliz Molina wrote...

Akilah, what is there to say, but in saying and not saying it. What I learned from you: not to talk when lacking sincerity. What I sometimes was reluctant to say around you, what you taught me without saying. That I understood so much when you didn’t say and that we have so much to say now that we can’t say them. One day or never, these things will be said and until then I’ll think of you, every so often, dreaming of our silly plans for the “Institute For the Hot Mess” and feeling now that what we won’t do sustains us.

Moe Seager wrote...

I so much enjoyed sharing time with Akilah in Paris in 2009, talking and laughing together with trumpeter, Rasul Siddik, while she was here to read, and in New York last spring, a time when she proposed that we do a jazz-poetry live music presentation. Sadly, this will not be. I appreciated Akilah for her poetry. I appreciated her for her critical analysis. I appreciated her world view; a relation to people and circumstances beyond her personal sphere. She and I shared a long walk and talk in Paris, a long walk and talk in Manhattan, memorable. Akilah was a distinguished poet, a caring mother and for me, a welcome presence who was easy to befriend. R.I.P. sister.

Kimberly Castanon wrote...

Four nights ago, I dreamed I was looking up the phrase “taken aback” in the dictionary. As I read these words, God said over my shoulder – “when human life goes beyond it’s context.”

And so Akilah… onward.

From Coffee House Press:

Aimee Herman wrote...

i walked around Brooklyn today, reading some of her poems out loud because she needs to be heard…..remembered…. smeared into the streets of where she stormed.

Peter Bushyeager wrote...

Akilah Oliver will be missed. I was always struck by the subtlety of her work, her remarkable collaborations with musicians, and her quiet, committed, gentle way of moving through the world. Those who took her workshops tell me that she brought all of her gifts to bear and created a very special, supportive atmosphere that truly nutured people.

From Monkey Puzzle Press:

Diane Klammer wrote...

Akilah taught us some powerful lessons about grief in her book, A Toast in the House of Friends. We will have to hold those lessons close to us now. She was a supportive friend and mentor, telling me to put my writing out there and allow it to do what it will. This is a shock and a loss.

Scott Forman wrote...

Akilah always made me look at things from a different perspective, outside of my own limited perceptions and beliefs – coming from such diverse, opposite, and sometimes opposing backgrounds and experiences, it was like we could tell each other to go to hell, feel good about it, and I think each of planned on enjoying the trip. She was never condemning or judgmental, but really made me think about my own judgments and condemnations, my own inner prejudices and even fears, and I am a better person and writer because of her.

Friends of Akilah are collecting funds for her funeral costs and to "support activity to keep the memory of Akilah and her work alive!" More information can be found at Litmus Press.