An Interview with June Gehringer
Jeremy Boyd: I wanted to ask for performance tips. I got to see you live in Denver earlier this year in Catch's living room and you were maybe 3 inches from me and uh, you killed it.
June Gehringer: Thank you! I actually recently got sober and have been performing sober for the first time in my life, which has been strange and unsettling, so the encouragement helps. I guess I've just been lucky to have been given a lot of opportunities to perform and to see other poets perform. I spent two months touring in 2017 and performed in probably ~50 shows that year. That's the best advice I can give. Go to as many poetry events as you can and pay attention to what you like and don't like. There's a lot to learn from everyone. Also, just get amped? I like to go outside and put my headphones on right before I'm about to read. I usually listen to Backseat Freestyle by Kendrick Lamar, or anything by Mitski. It fucking helps.
JB: Also, in general what do you think of performance? Is it a persona, a moment, a configuration or combination of both those things, something else, something more/less? How does performing/performance help or hurt poetry?
JG: Performing is weird. I feel like I'm naturally good at performing, and sometimes I get more attention than I deserve because of it. I definitely put on a mask while I'm performing. This is something I've been talking with my friends about a lot recently. The utility of persona. Like, for example, as a professional writer, my name is June Gehringer, but in my private life I've been going by [REDACTED], and I love the freedom that gives me. Like how Beyonce had Sasha Fierce. I can't be June Gehringer all the time. She's going through too much lmao.
JB: So, seen ya moved to Philly recently. What are your thoughts about the city so far? Any cool spots worth shouting out? I used to frequent Philly often but haven't been in a while. Just curious why you chose to move there?
JG: Oh man. I love Philly. Go Birds. I love all the parks, there's so many parks. I love coffeeshop hopping on Baltimore. I love sitting in the dog bowl at Clark Park watching dogs and chain smoking even though you're not supposed to. I love West Philly in general. I love my friends. I moved here bc most of the trans ppl I know in poetry live here. So, I guess I moved for trans community, for my writing career, and because I was bored and honestly dying in NE. Philly's great.
JB: Another place-specific question: there's mention a couple times in IDWAR (wow, is that acronym on purpose b/c holy fucking shit...) of Savannah, Georgia, which is a place I'm thinking of moving to after I graduate from UB. In the book you say it reminds you of what you thought New Orleans would be like. I haven't been to New Orleans yet, but somehow I feel like I know what you mean?? What did you mean though and would you recommend that I move there? (I love humidity and that it's ALMOST removed from fast-paced American life)
JG: Savannah is just beautiful and I've always had beautiful, charged experiences visiting there. But I guess what I'm talking about in that specific line is American Regionalism, and how things exist in our imagination, and where those ideas of places come from. Like, I feel like most of the country has this idea of the South that's very very skewed and sort of informed by the way the South has been depicted in mass media - I always think of Gone With the Wind. And in Savannah I realized how much that was a part of me, how I'd been subconsciously engaging with and living in these prefabricated ideas of entire regions of the country. Which seems fucked up to me. Because the reality of life in Southern states is often so much more queer, colorful, and beautiful than we are led to believe.
JB: Curious why so many of the poems are unnamed in your collection? Sometimes as I read I wonder if they're part of a larger poem and are just broken up a little into sections instead of just actual separate pieces...
JG: This is the first time I've ever worked on a manuscript knowing for pretty much the whole time that it was all going to be together in one book. And I think those brief untitled poems serve more of an intuitive function than one that I'll be able to concretely pin down, but I'll try. It's sort of like the book speaking to you, or like a greek chorus. Just disembodied voices. In this book I really tried to play with tone and atmosphere. It's definitely intended to be read in one sitting. I guess sometimes it's just like, the voice of my own unease. And when you read the book, it becomes yours.
JB: Favorite songs from DAMN.? (I think mine are YAH, FEAR, GOD, and DUCKWORTH).
JG: LOVE. is my favorite song, hands down. DNA, XXX, DUCKWORTH, the whole album bangs. Man I spend so much time thinking about Kendrick.
JB: How would you describe your writing voice in this collection of poems - it’s unity &/or aspects?
JG: The voice that dominates IDWAR is sort of like an amplified version of myself. It's both me and not. The speaker of those poems is someone who really allows herself to live deeply within her trauma and pain, her love and her joy, in a way that I'm not afforded the space to do in my daily life. I wouldn't want to be the person speaking in these poems. It'd be too difficult, too painful, and I'd never get anything done.
At some point in 2017, back when I was drinking pretty heavily, I got really freaked out by the (tiny) amount of attention my work was getting, and the attention I was getting. I grew to feel trapped by my voice, by the persona I had curated in my work and on social media. And so I had to step away. And when I came back, I knew I had to do things differently. Since then I've tried to cultivate a higher degree of distinction between my public and private life. To me, this book is a character study in a version of myself I no longer want to be. Which is interesting because something I've always been proud of is that I think I have a lot of range as a writer. And I think to a degree that's very much on display in this book - in 94 pages I move between poems and prose, fiction and memoir pretty much constantly. But I think the collection as a whole rests on a singular poetic voice I tried to create. In this way IDWAR has a natural sense of cohesion to me - the pieces in this book were largely written with the whole in mind. They're meant to be in dialogue with each other and themselves.
Born and raised in Omaha, NE, June Gehringer is the author of two books of poems, I Don’t Write About Race (Civil Coping Mechanisms 2018) and I Love You It Looks Like Rain (Be About It Press 2017). She lives in West Philly where she has more crushes than she can count.
Jeremy Boyd is a 26 year old soccer coach, substitute teacher and poet living in Frederick, Maryland. You can follow him @sp1it on Twitter. He is the author of two chapbooks, I Wanna Be Petty / I Will Be Great, and Step Parents: A Creation Myth, both available via Ghost City Press.