What’s your favorite song to dance to?
In the studio: “Let’s Work”-Prince and “Vamos a la Playa”-Cibo Matto / this morning in my house “The Highway”-Tunde Olaniran because its groove makes me wiggle.
Describe your personal hell.
A chatty Lyft driver masking deep angst with descriptions of hot chicks.
What’s something that always makes you laugh?
The Muppets. Always.
You’re sucked into a bad movie and you have to choose a point in history to live out the rest of your years. What time do you choose and why?
Right here. Right now. Let’s keep going. I want to be here when we win.
What’s a gif that you can relate to?
You’re hit by lightning. What happens?
My hair looks the way it did after that one hard perm in Detroit in my tween years. (The lye! the burn!)
It’s snowing outside, how do you feel?
Smug and pleased that I have moved to southern California where this is clearly not happening and I don’t have to dig out my car as I had to for many, many years.
What’s a cat picture you can get behind?
Hello Kitty. On a notebook with a matching pencil and eraser.
Where did you write most of your book? Why?
A whole bunch of places—Minneapolis, Detroit, Columbus, Dayton, Yellow Springs, Ohio, St. Louis, on an old farm in South Carolina with Lewis, visiting Rosa in Trinidad, Andrea’s sublet in LA in the summer where I could see palm trees and sunsets. I travel a lot and have moved a lot over the last five years. So this book is a mixtape of people & places.
What are your struggles and strengths as a writer?
Too brainy/ mushy/ academic/ nerdy/ earnest/ abstract/ dense/ poetic/ too black/ not black enough/ too much information/ too private/ too controlled/ self-aware/ refusing to be just one way or one thing/ questioning & yearning. Those are my struggles and my strengths.
Tell us a little about your writing process. What works, what doesn’t, what doesn’t but you still try anyway?
I strive to write to and from the body. I strive to connect writing and performance and life through a chronicle of performance body that would contribute to and honor an archive of black women’s creative expression. I am aiming for the long game—the idea that somewhere at some point, some one who really needs it will find my books (like a leaflet in that poem by Adrienne Rich) and that the words there, the images, will make a difference. I scribble in notebooks. I type on a screen. I put sheets of paper down in a room and move them around with my hands. I hustle and floss and cajole people to read my stuff now with my third eye open to the future.
GABRIELLE CIVIL is a black feminist performance artist, originally from Detroit, MI. She has premiered fifty original solo and collaborative performance works around the world. Signature themes included race, body, art, politics, grief, and desire. Since 2014, she has been performing “Say My Name” (an action for 270 abducted Nigerian girls)” as an act of embodied remembering. She is the author of Swallow the Fish and Tourist Art (with Vladimir Cybil Charlier). She currently teaches Creative Writing and Critical Studies at the California Institute of the Arts. The aim of her work is to open up space.