Why do you write?
When I first started writing poetry, I mean actually sitting down and actually focusing on writing poetry, it was after I had returned from peace-keeping duty in Africa as a member of the US Air Force. Writing helped me collect my thoughts and experiences. It gave me a physical place that I could “put” that stuff, and then walk away from it, put it up on a shelf, in a note book. It helped make experiences and emotions into tangible things.
These days, as I am published more frequently and broadly, I tend to think of writing as a door way to places that I simply can not access other ways.
It’s that whole “reach beyond one’s grasp” thing that excites me the most. Once a piece of writing is published or otherwise released into the world, there is no telling how long it will live or how far it will go. It’s that uncertainty that is so exciting for me these days.
What books do you read?
I am always reading at least two or three books. I write a quarterly poetry review column for a Houston based Indie Lit journal, so I’m usually pouring through a collection of Independently published poetry, but I also enjoy alternative fiction, creative nonfiction, and some professional stuff, too, having to do with post-trauma mental health treatment and recovery.
What inspires you?
I live in a very small town in a very Conservative part of Texas. George Bush is still praised as a divine figure here. Most social life in my area centers on children and church. I am single, childless by choice, and despise all organized religion, especially Christianity, so…inspiration pretty much has to come from within, for me.
I travel a lot though, hell, I have to drive at least 150 miles to get to anywhere worth mentioning, and that movement itself can be inspiring. Since I was a child, I have always been keenly aware of how the world, and the people of the world, are interconnected. Parochialism offends something very deep within me. It’s that movement, that connection, celebrating those differences, while recognizing the things we all have in common….That’s probably my greatest inspiration.
That, and the judicious use of drugs and alcohol.
How did you know you wanted to be a writer and when?
Man, I’ve been farting around with this poetry stuff since the 1990’s….I’ve written while homeless, while in prison, while working as a merchant seaman, and until about 2010 or so, I never really took myself or my work very seriously.
Just last month, I was down on the US/Mexico border, the city of McAllen, Texas had put me up for three nights in a King suite at the Holiday Inn, certainly not the kind of dump I’m used to making myself comfortable in on my own dime….and at one point that second night, I was sitting on the sofa in the living room, my feet up, smoking some great weed I had gotten earlier in the day from a student at the college campus where I read some poetry earlier in the day, and it hit me…I had pretty much accomplished what I had always wanted to do, I had become what I had always envisioned myself being.
I don’t know if that answers your question or not, but…
How Do you deal with rejection?
My stuff isn’t for everyone. I’m cool with that. Shit, I wouldn’t WANT to be published by the kind of wankers that brag about their abysmally low acceptance rates and that treat poets like prospects for Home Owners Associations.
I’ve been shot at by Somali militiamen, I’ve been locked up in Texas prisons, I’ve been homeless on the streets of San Francisco. The opinions of poetry and fiction editors at journals that no one even reads do not fucking bother me.
Who are some writers you admire?
In no particular order, and with no elaboration; Chuck Taylor, Jr., Jack Kerouac, Tom Robbins, Brian Allen Carr, Hunter Thompson, Gary Snyder, Carlton Mellick III, Jim Thompson, Barry Gifford, Bukowski, Lilly Penhall.
Is writing the only artistic medium you do?
I dabble in photography, Asian ink work, and mixed media collage.
What would be some advice you would give to your younger self?
Get the fuck out of Texas as quickly as possible and never come back….ever.
Keep copies of EVERYTHING…especially the things that you are told that you won’t need to keep copies of.
Smoke more marijuana. It will NOT hurt you.
Don’t be afraid to end friendships. People grow apart. You’re not supposed to be stuck with folks forever merely because you once got along.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Kill your fucking television. Be the type that has programs made about them, not the sort that watches programs about others.
Drink, smoke, fuck, drop acid, laugh, suck cock, travel, fight, fall, listen….always listen….everywhere, to everyone.
Try to have friends in as many time zones as possible. Visit them.
If you’re any good, and you’re doing all of this other shit, the writing will take care of itself.
What is your writing process?
There’s a process? I’ve always thought of it as more of a binge activity, writing.
I’m not one of those “10 pages a day” fuckers….and don’t even get me started on crap like “30 poems in 30 days”. Writing is an art to me, not a product. If I wanted to PRODUCE, I’d work at a bakery or a factory or something.
Rarely do I sit down and with pure purpose, write….usually a phrase, just a few words come to me…usually while I’m high, or driving, or driving high…I’ve pulled over on the side of the highway before and started a piece….sometimes, it’s something leftover from a dream that I can capture before it disappears.
Hell, I can’t tell you what the man behind the curtain looks like, I’ve only caught the briefest sights of him myself.
PW Covington is a disabled veteran and convicted felon.
His work has been published by both universities and underground ‘zines.
He travels widely, but lives in rural Texas with his bulldog, Chesty.