Yolo Akili’s poetry transcends sexual identity

this place most folks are too repressed
or afraid to engage
this place is the space that I call my home
my own purple galaxy
my erogenous zone
tell me…
do you think you have what it takes to come?

It’s a world where “a dick is not a weapon / but a sensual extension / meant to ride rock and stroke / not to bang hit or cut,” where “black women/ bare breasted / dancing / with honey almond dildos strapped to their laps. . . / mount / male bodies / enter mounds of jasper / sweaty cinnamon, / black.”

It is the Yolo dimension, where, he says, “we would have entirely different understandings of our bodies and be able to separate sensation from attraction.” Transcending sexual orientation as identity, the poems challenge false binaries of all kinds.

“Duality is itself an illusion, albeit a persistent one in the cultural imagination,” says Akili, who recently moved to New York from Atlanta.

Akili performs May 8 at Kat’s Cafe as part of the Brown Sugar Vibe. He performs and signs copies of “Purple Galaxy” at Outwrite Books on May 14. Although the album was more than a decade in the making, Akili’s writing process isn’t one of strict discipline.

“Some of the tracks go as far back as ‘95. Some, like the title track, are a lot more recent. Poetry for me is not something I often think much about,” he says. “It normally just comes out of me when I need to express or convey something to page, to release. Some poems were prompted by trauma, others by desire.”

The title track, “Purple Galaxy,” introduces an otherworldly sexual utopia: “in this dimension / gender binaries fall / sexual orientation / it don’t mean shit at all,” Akili writes.

“I believe that all people are essentially bisexual, but that attraction is not always physical,” Akili explains. “We are pulled to different people in many different ways that are not sexual in just the physical sense.”

Akili graduated from Georgia State, where he majored in African-American and women’s studies. His work as an instructor-trainer for Men Stopping Violence and as a yoga instructor also clearly informs his work as a poet.

“The narrow categories that we have in the West don’t leave room for the fact that some people move and shift. It also doesn’t take into account that many of us express only certain aspects of ourselves because of fear or trauma,” Akili says. “In ‘Purple Galaxy,’ I try to envision what a world would look like where sexual oppression doesn’t exist — and then, by virtue of that, none of the -isms could ever exist.”

But Akili’s world also has a dark side. The track “They Will Hunt Us” describes queer survival in an actively homophobic world:

they will seek us out like wolves in the evening
search sidewalks and streetcorners for a whiff
of our scent
our maleswinging hips will incite them to rage
a woman’s jaunty swagger will give them
psychotic fits
and they will reach for their guns and their blades
conjoin their five fingers to a fist and take aim

Even under siege, even at the point of the blade, Akili sees the true enemy: “for we are the projections of their own fears / we are the faces of their own unexpressed pain / they will hunt us until they heal.”

To hear these and other poems from the album in their entirety, visit www.yolothepoet.com.

Yolo Akili & ‘Purple Galaxy’
Saturday, May 8, 8 p.m.
Kat’s Cafe
970 Piedmont Ave., Atlanta GA 30309

Friday, May 14, 7:30 p.m.
Outwrite Bookstore & Coffeehouse
991 Piedmont Ave., Atlanta, GA 30309


Photo: Poet Yolo Akili envisions an erotic utopia where sexuality isn’t bound by categories of male / female and gay / straight. (Photo via Facebook)