We had the good fortune of connecting with Austin Davis and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Austin, what do you want your legacy to be?
I want to be remembered as someone who spent their life spreading love. My philosophy is to treat every person I meet — whether that’s a stranger, a friend, or a family member, with the thoughtfulness I’d show a loved one. What I mean by this is, I strive to give the attention, focus, acceptance, care and love I’d show my partner, best friend, or mother, to everyone I encounter. I think treating people in this way makes everyone feel a little happier, me included, and at the end of the day, what could be more important than that? I want to be remembered as a person who wasn’t perfect, but who never stopped trying to grow as a human. I’ve definitely made mistakes, but I hope to die a person who learned and grew from his past, and ended up making a positive impact on people’s lives. I hope my writing will inspire progressive change and be able to show people that they’re not alone in what they’re feeling. The biggest goal for me is to change the world in some way with the art form I love, and with the person I am.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My name is Austin Davis and I’m a poet and student activist currently studying creative writing at ASU. I’ve been writing for a good majority of my life. I fell in love with reading when I was a kid and as I grew up, my love for reading turned into an everlasting passion for writing. As I got a little older, I felt like I needed to express myself and I loved how reading and writing poetry made me feel. It amazes me how intimately a certain image or idea can connect with you in a poem. As a senior in high school, Moran Press published a collection of my poetry titled, “Cloudy Days, Still Nights.” This book was mostly composed of love poems and poems about growing up and not being a kid anymore. It was such a wonderful experience for me to work with a publisher at such a young age, and Stephen Moran is one of the most generous, thoughtful, and giving people I’ve ever worked with. We still talk and work together on the occasional project and I feel so lucky to have met him online. Moran also published my follow up collection, “Second Civil War,” during my first year of college at ASU. This book was a small chapbook of political poetry aimed to fight hate and injustice and hopefully inspire more people to vote. After “Second Civil War” came out, I spent a lot of time learning and growing and just experiencing life. My newly released book, “The World Isn’t the Size of Our Neighborhood Anymore,” was published by Weasel Press on March 3rd, 2020, during my second year in college. I feel like each poem in this book builds on one another and leads into the next. I think this book is a cohesive body of work with poems on toxic masculinity, the gun violence pandemic, love, and the loss of innocence. In a way, this book is about trying to figure out who you are in a world you’re struggling to make sense of. It’s a meditation on the way life changes and how we grow and move forward. Weasel was so amazing to work with and he really brought the vision I had for this book to life. Following the release of this book, I went on my first tour. I read my poems at libraries and coffee shops in Tempe, Flagstaff, Phoenix, Mesa, Apache Junction, and Tucson throughout March. Touring was one of the best experiences of my life. I realized that I love to perform and travel and meet new people. I also taught poetry classes for teenagers at the Mesa Public Library and the Apache Junction Public Library on my tour and I learned how much I love to teach kids and introduce people to poetry they might not usually find in the classroom. Before everything escalated, I had planned a California tour for this summer. I was going to hop in my van with my friends and do readings all along the coast and go from hostel to hostel sharing poetry left and right. Since that tour inevitably got cancelled, I’m doing a virtual tour on Instagram Live this summer with some bands, musicians and writers I really admire. If you’d like to check it out, follow me on Instagram @austinwdavis1 for updates about the shows and tune in Saturday nights at 7 PM PT! On July 7th, my new micro-chapbook of poetry, “Celestial Night Light,” is coming out from Ghost City Press as a part of their 2020 Summer Series. The book will be free to download and is composed of the five best poems I think I’ve ever written. “Celestial Night Light” is about heartbreak, mental health issues during the coronavirus pandemic, loneliness, and looking for love again. I think a lot of people will be able to connect with the poems in this collection, and I’m so excited for people to read it! As for what’s next, I can’t wait to be able to tour again. I’m currently working on a full length collection of poetry, and I’ve been writing a lot about my experiences with OCD and anxiety lately, mostly to help me cope during the pandemic. I’ve also been working with AZ Jews For Justice this past semester. It’s been an amazing experience for me to work so closely with Eddie Chavez Calderon (AZ Jews For Justice’s Campaign Organizer) in making a difference in our community, especially during the last couple months. Eddie has been a great mentor to me and he’s really shown me how to be a successful social justice leader. Throughout my journey so far, I’ve learned how important it is to follow your passions in life, no matter how scary it might seem at times. I think life’s too short to not try and do something crazy and beautiful. Thank you so much to everyone who has ever read one of my poems! “Celestial Night Light” is dedicated to everyone who could use a hug right now.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
My best friend lives near me, but let’s say he didn’t. If my best friend moved away and was back in town for a week, and if we were living in a world without the virus, we’d have one hell of a time. First of all, I’d give him a huge hug. I think hugging is what I’ve missed most these last couple months. Anyone who knows me can tell you that I could be described as the human equivalent of a walking, talking snuggle. We’d probably go to a Suns game, play a lot of basketball, and definitely have a party and invite all our friends over. My best friend and I love to adventure, so we might go on a road trip somewhere random and sleep in the back of my van in a Walmart parking lot, as we’ve done before. We’d drive around the town we grew up in with the music loud and all the windows down in my mini van with all our friends. Maybe we’d go camping in Payson and hike to the Ellison Falls swimming hole, or spend a couple nights in Flagstaff and stargaze at the Lowell Observatory. I would love to catch a house show in Tempe again. I also really miss going to poetry slams and open mics in Phoenix. I’ve met some really awesome people in that community over the last couple years. My favorite place to eat in Phoenix is the 5 & Diner on 16th Street. I’d order a garlic burger and a butterscotch milkshake and feel like everything’s a little less strange, for a moment.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My success is all due to the efforts, care, support and love I’ve received from my loved ones. I’d like to thank my parents and my brother and sister for their continued encouragement. My family never gave up on me, even when I felt like giving up on myself. My best friends have always been there for me in my hardest battles with OCD and anxiety, and they’ve been there for the best moments of my life too. I owe so much to them as well. I’d also like to thank Daniel Pike, Steve Abell, and every other teacher who has ever impacted my life. Dan was my high school English teacher and he was really the first person who made me believe this was what I could do with my life. Pike’s support for me has never wavered and it has really meant the world to me. I graduated from high school 2 years ago, but Dan and I are still great friends, which I think is wonderful. I met Steve Abell through ASU’s Creative Writing Mentorship Program. After class I’d ride my skateboard to Steve’s place and we’d kick it, edit poems and listen to sad music. I really learned a lot from Steve about how to put the most power in to each word. Steve has opened my mind to looking at language in new ways, and I’m excited to use what I’ve learned from him in my future work more and more. I’ve learned the most about editing from Steve than I have from anyone else. Steve doesn’t have a phone anymore, (which I think is so damn cool) but he and I email each other on a regular basis. It’s almost like sending letters back and forth. I dig it!