My phone just pinged and Austin Davis says that he’s cool to start the interview we have scheduled today, whenever. Hyped, I jump up from watching Wednesday, to go to my Mac. I tell him I’ll be ready in 2 minutes but it actually takes me 10 minutes to figure out the right playlist to listen to while talking with Austin. He’s so versatile and brings out so many moods. He loves Mac Miller and Taylor Swift but I randomly decided to throw on Spotify Singles: Covers as a change of pace. I finally tell him I’m ready to go but get the “…” from his side for what seems like forever.  My phone notifies me that an Amazon package was just delivered downstairs and I wager whether I should grab it after the interview or try and beat Austin’s message and get it now. I say, “fuck it,” and run downstairs. By the time I get back up, Austin has messaged that he’s ready to go…
(I recommend also playing Spotify Singles: Covers while reading this interview)

 

Talking with Austin Davis right now and if you don’t know him yet, then you probably don’t read Maudlin house enough. Austin, it going?

Haha! It’s always an honor to have work published by Maudlin House. The space you all have created is a true blessing for sure. You’ve published a few of my personal favorite poems too, actually!

The evening is going well over here in AZ 🙂 Just finishing up today’s outreach on the streets. Have been tinkering with a new poem throughout the day which has been fun

How are you? Sending hugs and love to Chicago, my friend

Things are pretty good on my end. Keeping busy with Maudlin house books and doing the Textual Healing post 9which you were fun af in btw)…

Haha our episode of Textual Healing had me smiling the whole rest of the week after we recorded it!! So much fun. I think we should definitely put out an album together of Taylor Swift and One Direction slam poem covers

Don’t tease because I am so on board if you ever wanted to do it haha

Omg Mallory, yes. We have to record this album. No joke. That could be the next goofy thing I hyper fixate on haha

 

Doing anything new with the outreach these days? Or are things vibing the same way?

I’m getting lots of calls this season from families facing homelessness. And lots of folks who have never been on the streets before. AZ is in the midst of such an awful housing crisis, fentanyl crisis and mental health crisis.

Next up, we’re trying to work towards starting a crisis respite center for families, the elderly, DV victims, etc. People in immediate crisis who we can keep safe until we can transition them to the next service and resource that best fits their situation. That’s the long term goal, at least!

Same here in Chicago. The hardest part is that we’re heading into the winter months. Outreach is more needed than usual at this time of year. People need a warm place to go. Does that factor into things in your area at all?

The cold weather can be so dangerous! Especially with how cold it gets in the winter in cities like Chicago. The cold is definitely a factor here as well. The low temp nowadays is in the 40s, maybe high 30s, which is definitely a concern for the most vulnerable groups

Loneliness is really the silent killer out here on the streets. Hope and togetherness is everything and in addition to the physical dangers of the cold, the weather definitely exasperates depression and mental health issues too

 

Couldn’t agree more. Still in awe over the fact that you’re able to put in all of that good work and write at the same time. I would be so overwhelmed by it. How do you do it?

Writing is like drinking water or breathing for me. I have to do it to stay alive, so I think the time and space to write creates itself.

If I need to write a poem, I take those couple minutes for myself. I think that my current philosophy is to live life first and foremost, to put my heart and soul into the streets every day, to do my best at being a decent friend, brother, partner, etc to those I love. And I think the poems always appear in the interims between those things.

What have you been working on lately?

Over the last year or so I’ve been working feverishly on a new book! It’s called “Compulsive Swim” and I’m really looking forward to people reading this one. The book is double the length of “Lotus & the Apocalypse.” Like “Lotus,” it’s a poetry novella.

The book tells the story of a character who’s absolutely exhausted from fighting their OCD compulsions, and who is struggling to not leave the apartment and go relapse to feel at peace for a second

The book is set in Phoenix. As the character moves throughout the city, we see how widespread the fentanyl crisis is, along with how difficult it is to simply survive.

 

It definitely sounds like it’s pretty rooted in the experiences you’ve had personally. Was it hard to dive into writing something like that? Or did you find it cathartic?

It was easy to start writing these poems, but hard to finish them. When I start on a poem or a new project, I always just initially allow the words to flow and guide the direction.

Completing these poems was difficult because in order for them to be the most connective that they could be, I think I really had to be honest with myself about my personal failures, about my guilts and fears. I had to really take the time to consider how I could personally grow, along with what steps I thought we as a community could start to take together to move towards a better future. From personal relationship experiences to painful moments on the streets, there’s a lot of honest stories throughout the book.

What was the catalyst that kickstarted you into writing this?

Initially, it was my OCD. I was going through each day fighting these scary and exhaustingly debilitating compulsions. I started writing poems about it as a tool to help myself push through and not listen to the compulsions, to not give in.

But additionally, a lot of people ive loved have died on the streets, from fentanyl, mental health, illness, the heat and more. Our people deserve to survive. They deserve to live. We owe it to each other to have these conversations and work towards a future that works for all of us

 

I couldn’t agree with you more. Your writing is always so passionate and empathy towards other people. When will Compulsive Swim be available?

Thank you so much, my friend. It’s all about the love! Compulsive Swim will be available from Outcast Press on February 1st, 2023! I’m really excited to hit the road again for tour. And above all else, I hope that maybe these poems can help us look at each other with a little more care

 

I am so psyched for it to be unleashed! People will feel the magic that is always present in your work. Is there anything else you’d like to add before we go?

Thank you so much, Mallory 🙂 I appreciate you and your kindness so much.

As we end our conversation tonight, I’m off to brew a cup of tea, sit outside my apartment in a camping chair, and simply relax and exist haha.

I hope you have a wonderful and restful night and I hope that anyone reading this, wherever they are and whenever they are reading this, can find some sort of peace in their evening as well 

Thanks so much! I loved chatting with you as always.

Always love chatting with you toooo :)) Def down for our album too hahah

We could totally record a dumb thing with piano music or acoustic guitar behind it haha

 

Omg I would sooo be into it lol…like just say the word and we do it ????

WORD. Let’s do it dude ????

 

Austin Davis is a 22-year-old poet, activist, and the founder of AZ Hugs For the Houseless. Austin is the author of Lotus & The Apocalypse and Austin’s next book, Compulsive Swim, is forthcoming from Outcast Press in February, 2023. Above all else, with his work on the streets and on the page, Davis aims to spread love, foster togetherness and mobilize our community in the pursuit of peace and progress.