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Reading Series Census: Gavagai

By on Wednesday, May 4th, 2022 at 8:52 am

Reading Series Census

In the latest Reading series census, we head out to Ridgewood, Queens.

The New York City Reading Series Census is an ongoing project to catalogue the contemporary literary scene. Any reading series curator in the New York area can take the survey here.

What is the name of the series, and what is the significance or meaning of the series name?

The series is called “Gavagai”, which means “undetached rabbit parts.” Or it could mean that, or it could mean something else. It’s a term from a thought experiment proposed by the philosopher W.V. Quine, which he uses to illustrate the indeterminacy of translation.

And the indeterminacy of translation seems like it cuts to the core of what we’re trying to do with Gavagai: a feeling gets translated into language, gets translated into music, etc. (Plus the idea of there being a word for “undetached rabbit parts” is so funny and great, we just had to.)

Who founded the series, and who runs it now?

Poet Danielle Blau founded it in 2016, and she’s still kicking.

What genres or mediums does the series include?

Poetry, fiction and standup comedy, all scored by original live improvised music.

What is the format of the series?

Gavagai is a monthly performance series curated and hosted by poet Danielle Blau–and, now (starting May 2022), by comedian Bronwyn Isaac–that brings you poetry and fiction readings–and, now (starting May 2022), comedy!– scored with original live music by composer-improviser-bassist Mike Brown, with other skilled improvisers (piano-players, guitarists, horn-players, drummers, harpists, cellists, violinists, vocalists, who knows?) usually dropping in onstage as guest-musicians.

Where does the series take place?

Footlight Underground at the Windjammer in Ridgewood, Queens

When and how often is the series performed (and is it seasonal)?

Every third Sunday of the month (with doors at 7pm and shows at 7:30pm)

How long has the series been active?

The series started in February of 2016 and was active for several years. Then it took a long pandemic-related hiatus. But it is starting back up in May 2022!

Where can people find information about series on the web?

Do you take submissions, solicit material, or a combination?

A combination

Did you set out with specific goals when the series was launched and have they changed over time?

Gavagai started with poetry and fiction readings live-scored by a rotating cast of skilled improvisers, and we’re still doing that–but now we’ve thrown standup comedy into the mix too! We love the idea of bringing together as many different worlds as possible.

What distinguishes the series from others?

We have an eclectic mix of poets and fiction writers, both established and emerging (past readers include Natasha Trethewey, Robert Lopez, Yusef Komunyakaa, Natalie Shapero, Julia Guez, Natalia Sylvester, Timothy Donnelly, and Morgan Parker, to name just a few)–and their readings are live-scored by skilled improvisers (bass player Mike Brown, joined by a rotating cast of monstrously talented musicians–who, between them, have collaborated with everyone from Tom Waits to Meredith Monk to Henry Threadgill to Bonnie Prince Billy to Laurie Anderson to Philip Glass to Snoop Dogg)!

Gavagai has two albums out with Ropeadope Records, too, both featuring Pulitzer-Prize-winning poet Yusef Komunyakaa: White Dust and Dark Furniture. Which is pretty cool. And The New York Times included one of White Dust’s tracks (/ one of Komunyakaa’s poems), “Dolphy’s Aviary”, on its Playlist of 11 most notable new songs–also pretty cool.


The return of Gavagai will be on May 15, 2022. For a line up and full details, check out events page.



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