by Gabrielle Civil

ISBN: 978-1-938900-38-9
Publication date: July 2021
50 pages, 5.3” x 7”
Read Press Release (PDF)


How can you return to where you’ve never been? (ghost gestures) conjures diaspora hauntings and traces black bodies across space and time. In Dakar and Banjul, Detroit and Montreal, Tlaxcala and Río Piédras, Gabrielle Civil showcases black bodies dancing, hiding, and re-emerging. In performance writing, she invokes the doll, the queen, and the ghost to explore where black women have never and always been. She plays hide-and-seek with her own transforming body and tackles history, identity, art, and desire. “bring this here/ bring this back/ keep this here/ bring us back/ bring us here / bring us back to this.” Incorporating chants, notations, images, and scores, ( ghost gestures ) will spirit you away.
From “the queen”
my working definition of caribbean
performance art:
to hunger. to take and consume. to offer.
to sacrifice.
to retain. to retch. to feel belly full.
to throw it back.
to exhibit oneself. to body as mas.
to make before now.
to think as in clamoring into clothes.
to deny nostalgia.
to confiscate treasure. to decorate.
to order to feast.
to see one’s own skin as ordinary time.
to flare nostrils.
to err in kindness. to erase. to bloodfish.
to scholarship.
to open your body like a stalk. to open
your chest like a clock.
to unstalk. to nibble gnaw devour
from the inside.
to hang the skin. to talk out the side
of the neck.
to talk one thing to talk the other. to decorate
the wound.
to eat. to serve. to crawl back in. to burn
finally alive


“(ghost gestures) is a complex work that starts to oscillate, the more it gets to what it is: about. Lateral shifts appear on the page as this writer engages race, mimicry, migration, and desire as core themes, so rapidly that the chapbook’s distension, the way this writing changes what a chapbook is, becomes a part of what it is to read it. That: ‘struggle,’ or: ‘blur.’ When a queen becomes an effigy, the writer asks us to consider, as a working definition of Caribbean performance art: what it might be to ‘burn finally alive.’ All of this works together to create an experience of world-contact through micro-movements, kinesthesia, the body’s trace as much as its on-going being. The ghost gestures are experienced as fully, in other words, as they might be experienced. This is a philosophy of performance that the writer elaborates for us: ‘The performance texts here serve as past projections, transcriptions and scores.’ Yes. How do you choreograph notes so they magnetize their own columnar, prehensile order? Like this.”

Bhanu Kapil

2019 Gold Line Press Nonfiction Chapbook Contest Judge


Gabrielle Civil is a black feminist performance artist, poet, and writer, originally from Detroit MI. She has premiered fifty original performance art works around the world including in Puerto Rico, The Gambia, Ghana, Canada, Zimbabwe, and Mexico where she lived as a Fulbright Fellow. She is the author of the performance memoirs Swallow the Fish (2017) and Experiments in Joy (2019). A 2019 Rema Hort Mann LA Emerging Artist, she teaches creative writing and critical studies at the California Institute of the Arts. The aim of her work is to open up space.



Book design by Kenji C. Liu.

Contact Us


Gold Line Press & Ricochet Editions

c/o Ph.D. in Creative Writing & Literature

3501 Trousdale Parkway, THH 431

Los Angeles, CA  90089-0354


Gold Line Press: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Ricochet Editions: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram