the déjà vu, the latest book from Gabrielle Civil, a Black feminist performance artist, poet, and faculty in CalArts’ Creative Writing Program, was released in February by Coffee House Press. To celebrate its launch, Civil performs and reads excerpts from the book at the Poetic Research Bureau in Los Angeles this Sunday, March 20. Joining her are guests Sharon Bridgforth, Omi Osun Joni L. Jones, and z.No Scott.
“Mining possibilities of black dreams and black time at the intersection of pandemic and uprising, this book continues my innovative practice of performance/writing, aligned with the CalArts ethos of creative innovation,” Civil writes to 24700. In a myriad ways, Civil combines memoir with tributes to Black artists in a world of coronavirus-caused isolation and racial strife exacerbated by the 2020 murder of George Floyd.
A Kirkus review hails the déjà vu:
An unwavering commitment to upholding a unique personal aesthetic while exploring black dreams is the driving force behind this unusual book, a kind of archive or scrapbook of performance pieces, scripts, poems, conversations, collaborations, lectures, and essays. As in the postscript, the narrative touches at many points on the tensions created by recent changes in the way we use and interpret language.
The aforementioned postscript explains why Civil doesn’t use a capital B for the word black when referring to race: It’s her choice, her time—and her book. “I reserve the right to make different choices myself (even within the span of this text). I’m down for lowercase blackness, capital Blackness, all caps BLACKNESS, wild-style bLaCkNeSs, nourbeSe-N b l a c k N e s s, and other combinations.”
Originally hailing from Detroit, Civil has premiered 50 original solo and collaborative performance works around the world from Mexico to Montreal and Ghana to Zimbabwe. Her performance memoirs include Swallow the Fish, Experiments in Joy, ( ghost gestures ), and in and out of place.
The Poetic Research Bureau is nonprofit fiction and portable literary service and a founding and resident member of 2220 Arts + Archives on Beverly Boulevard in Los Angeles.
If you miss the reading this weekend, Beyond Baroque in Venice, California hosts another event with Civil on May 28.
For further learning, listen to a special VS Roll Call podcast episode (from the Poetry Foundation) that Civil hosted and created with producer Tyree Rush. In the episode, she expands further about the “slippery, urgent nature of black time” aka the déjà vu. In the episode, she welcomes poets Rashidah Ismaili and jayy dodd, scholar Michelle M. Wright, and a precocious six-year-old Naima.