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ASU student ‘bridges art and activism’ through poetry

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By Annika Tomlin

Ahead of his new book release, Arizona State University senior Austin Davis is looking forward to going on tour with his soon-to-be-released poetry collection called “Lotus & the Apocalypse” that will be available by Outcast Press on March 1.

“’Lotus & the Apocalypse’ is a poetry novella,” Davis says. “It is the story of the last day on Earth for this character named Lotus as they struggle to understand what the point of life is.”

Davis dives into his personal afflictions with love, loss, guilt, addiction and mental health issues to illustrate through the character of Lotus on how to “figure out what the point of (life) is before it is too late.”

“With this book I wanted to write a poetry book that told a story,” Davis says. “Each poem leads into the next.

“The goal is it should be cohesive where you start at the beginning and when you end you experience this whole world and you’ve gone through this narrative.”

He calls his newest book the “best thing” he has ever made following his previous works “The World Isn’t The Size of Our Neighborhood Anymore,” “Celestial Night Light,” and “Street Sorrows,” the last of which came out last year.

“As I’ve gotten older, I’ve kind of realized that I don’t want to hold back in my art,” Davis says. “I’m really honest in these poems about my struggles with mental health. I have OCD and Tourette syndrome and ADHD and I just lay it all out in the book.”

Davis calls writing about his true self “kind of scary” while also being “invigorating.” Once he shows his “bones” to people he feels that there is “nothing else to hide.”

The compilation of poems weaves into a medley of emotions for the reader while Davis uses it as a therapeutic way of dealing with his bigger life issues.

“There is one poem in the book called ‘Lotus and Honesty’ and I think that one was tough (to create) because I think it was actually the first poem that I wrote (for this book),” Davis says about the poem that appears in the middle of the book. “When I first started writing this book, I was just writing poems and they had different names and they weren’t linked.

“Then I wrote this poem called ‘Lotus and Honesty’ and I kind of saw all of these threads connect and the stories connected as one. When I was writing this poem, I really had to push myself out of my comfort zone to not I guess lie in the story and just be honest.”

In contrast, Davis says the first poem in the book called “The World is Going to End Tonight” was his favorite to write during the start of the pandemic while facing COVID-19 head-on on top of his additional “mental health stuff.”

“For me, one of my goals with poems is to tell a deep story, a comprehensive story in the least amount of words,” Davis says. “I think it is only 12 lines or something but I thought there were no extra words, nothing that could be cut. I was happy with the way that it turned out.”

Unlike his usual writing process of writing followed by continual revision, this short piece came out after one go at it.

“One thing that I love about writing poems is the act of creating is very therapeutic and it’s kind of like wringing out your brain like a dirty sponge and letting all of the dirty water fall on the page,” Davis says about an analogy that he wove into his book. “That is kind of how I felt writing a lot of these poems.”

From the start of writing the poems for this collection, Davis had the goal of publishing his book this March and worked his way backward to find a publisher to help him reach that goal. He found Outcast Press in the process.

“I had seen some of the books that they published before and I dug it so I reached out to Sebastian (Vice) who is the founder and we just got on a Facetime and chatted,” Davis explains. “He read the book and took it kind of slow and then it all came together. The cool thing about the book is the interior which is just beautiful.” Each poem is matched with an illustration that relates to the content within the poem.

Future plans

As a college senior, Davis is ready to finish out his last semester and continue his creative ventures.

“In March I am going on tour for the book,” Davis says. “I do school all online so I’m just going to be doing school online in different cities and stuff.

“I’m going to be coming back and forth because I run AZ Hugs for the Houseless too. I’ll be doing outreach and all of that but I will basically be on the road for a while.” He hopes to continue the book tour over the summer following college graduation.

“I’m not really sure what is going to happen with the book but I am excited to see what happens,” Davis admits. “My goal is to keep running AZ Hugs for the Houseless and have that grow and also just keep writing books and bridging art and activism in that way.”

“Lotus & the Apocalypse” will be available on Amazon for paperback and Kindle editions starting March 1.

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