Scott Thomas Outlar hosts the site 17Numa where links to his published poetry and fiction can be found. The site also features a page with an extensive list of links to literary venues, as well as a page dedicated to the work of other contemporary writers and artists. Scott’s chapbook “Songs of A Dissident” will be released in January 2016 through Transcendent Zero Press. His words have appeared recently in venues such as Yellow Chair Review, Dissident Voice, Dead Snakes, Harbinger Asylum, and Section 8 Magazine. He is always happy to connect with new people, so feel free to reach out and contact him on Facebook and Twitter.
Geosi Gyasi: To begin with, I find your obligatory biography quite intriguing. What do you mean by saying you “survived both the primordial fire and the cataclysmic flood”?
Scott Thomas Outlar: I, like everyone else, have had to deal with my fair share of suffering and sorrow so far while I’ve been alive in this world of flesh and blood. I’ve experienced the same sorts of tragic circumstances that are inherent to the human condition. The fiery flames of horror that burn one’s heart after losing a loved one did not kill me. The Biblical floods of righteousness that rage through the dogmatic sectors of society did not stop my progress. I have survived such things as these, and they have only made me stronger. I am a firm believer in the power of positive affirmation. The Great Yes to it All, however it may arrive. Yes to the sorrow. Yes to the suffering. Yes to the joy. Yes to the jubilation. Yes to the wars. Yes to the peacemakers. Yes to sickness. Yes to health. Yes to life. Yes to the eventual grave. Yes to the trials, tests and tribulations which force us to either adapt or perish. Yes to the chaos which forces us to evolve into higher states of order. I have learned how to survive, and I seek now to thrive. I have learned to survive, and I say now, Yes, Yes, three times Yes, and Hallelujah.
Geosi Gyasi: Were you born to be a writer?
Scott Thomas Outlar: It’s difficult to say for sure. Perhaps. I believe in both fate and freewill. There is a certain dharmic path that each of us is meant to walk in life, but no guarantee how soon or even how many lifetimes it will take to reach the destination. So every one of our choices through the process either accelerates or impedes the progress toward the ultimate goal. From a less metaphysical point of view I can say this: My Grandfather worked as a sports writer and editor at the Atlanta Journal Constitution for thirty years, retiring when I was still a young child and so didn’t really understand yet what it was he did. Some have said that the seed of writing is in my genes and blood. This may well be true. However, to account all of my craft to genetics is, I think, unfair, for it undermines the years of sacrifice and behind the scenes work put in to reach the point I’m at now where the first little taste of success is finally being enjoyed. I know this much: I was born to rebel against the corrupted institutions of this world; I was born to rant and rave; and I was born to set fires in the collective consciousness. Writing, I believe, is simply the best weapon I’ve found so far to use toward such ends.
Geosi Gyasi: How many poems are in your chapbook, “A Black Wave Cometh”?
Scott Thomas Outlar: Twenty-three poems; thirty-one pages.
Geosi Gyasi: Was it difficult securing a publisher for your chapbook, “A Black Wave Cometh”?
Scott Thomas Outlar: One of the poetry sites that has been very kind to me and where I have been fortunate enough to be published at frequently is Stephen Jarrell Williams’ Dead Snakes. Having an insatiable appetite for poetry, I also read the work of other poets there quite often. While at the site one day I happened upon a poem by Kristopher D. Taylor, and in his bio was a mention of the new venture he’d just undertaken, Dink Publishing. I immediately put together a batch of poems to send his way for consideration at the magazine being advertised. I received a positive response and an acceptance from Kristopher which prompted me to send the chapbook I had just recently compiled “A Black Wave Cometh” his way, as the site also had an open call for chapbook submissions. In the same vein as so many other occurrences that have happened while following leads such as this one, the chapbook was accepted. The moral of the story is this: When you see an open door, don’t hesitate, don’t stand around pondering whether or not to walk through…in fact, don’t walk at all. Run as if your life depended on it…because, if you are a writer, it very well may.
Geosi Gyasi: Could you give me a brief summary of your book, “Songs of A Dissident”?
Scott Thomas Outlar: This chapbook, my second, will be released in early 2016 through Houston, Texas based publisher Transcendent Zero Press, run by Dustin Pickering and Z.M. Wise. The title stems from some of the poems which have been published by Angie Tibbs at Dissident Voice, where I’ve been writing a weekly piece for a little over a year now. The work I do there is generally themed around politics and society, and I thought it would be a good idea to use a small selection of that work as the seed upon which to build a collection of verse. Dustin added a subtitle of “Protest Poems” to the chapbook, and I think this aptly describes the basic tenor of the material. Some of the points hit upon in “Songs of A Dissident” are my thoughts concerning the American Empire, the military industrial complex, the wars being waged around the world, the devious nature of the Federal Reserve and World Bank, Machiavellian politics, and a bit of conspiracy theory thrown into the mix just to spice things up.
Geosi Gyasi: You had more than 400 poems published in over 100 literary avenues in 2015. How did you achieve this feat?
Scott Thomas Outlar: A burning passion at the very core of my being along with an absolute obsession to make waves while announcing myself upon the literary scene are the underlying factors in whatever modicum of success I’ve been fortunate enough to achieve so far in the first year of submitting and publishing my work. When it comes to the nuts and bolts of the matter, it basically boils down to this: time, energy, focus, persistence, patience, proper perspective, mindfulness, and courage. A fearlessness in sending out my work, a willingness to make connections with editors, fellow poets, and my audience, and the ability to not only shake off rejection but to use it as a propelling force to work even harder are all key points that have moved me along the path. I’d also like to think that there is at least something fresh and unique about my style which captures the attention of those who read my words. I’m beyond thankful to have become acquainted with publishers whom my poetry seems to resonate with, and they have been extremely kind and gracious to continually allow me a forum in which to present my work.
Geosi Gyasi: Where do you get your ideas to write?
Scott Thomas Outlar: Some of them must be chased down…stalked like a hunter after his prey. Others must be delicately coaxed and caressed to slowly emerge from the seeds of dreams. But most of my ideas come unannounced from the levels of consciousness which are not exactly on the tip of the tongue. Hard to explain those types of mysteries. But the door to the unknown realms is always left wide open, and I am the sort of host that never turns down a guest who shows up to the party. The thoughts arrive and so we feast, dance, and make merry until the mood and excitement of the celebration have been captured upon the page. Such guests may have traveled from the war torn desserts of the Middle East; some come telling tales of corruption from the corridors of Washington, D.C.; some are full of fire and brimstone; some fall gentle as rain during the sweltering Summer; some are friends; some are foes; but all, as I say, are welcomed with open arms and a ready pen.
Geosi Gyasi: Is there any real difference between an essay and fiction?
Scott Thomas Outlar: Well, yes and no, depending upon the context of what type of essay is in question. If we are referring to a non-fiction essay about history, politics, religion, psychology, science, or any number of other fields of study, then yes, there is a mark of delineation which should be drawn. I sometimes dabble in these fields and try to hammer out something concrete, logical, and of sound reasoning in my effort to make sense of this mad world and society in which I live. In which we all live, I should say. However, the term I like to use when describing my work is: prose-fusion poetry; and by coining this term is such a way, I sought to essentially allow myself the leeway to combine any genre or form in any way I deemed fit at any given moment. A neat trick, that. It basically gives me a get-out-of-jail-free-card in which I’m allowed to roam without rules, regulations, or restrictions in how I choose to let the words flow. Borders, boxes, and boundaries have never been my preferred playground, and so the open fields of creativity are where I seek to frolic, combining the forms of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, prose, essay, and any other specification in such a way that might give nightmares to those who are rigid in their perceptions of structure. Literally and figuratively, as the case may be.
Geosi Gyasi: Have you ever experienced writer’s block?
Scott Thomas Outlar: No. I have a complete trust and faith in the process by which I work. If something needs to come forth from my pen, it will. I don’t question it. I don’t second guess it. I don’t fret over it. I don’t get anxious wondering how it’s going to happen. It just is.
Geosi Gyasi: What is the best time to write?
Scott Thomas Outlar: My first thought is that whatever time it happens to be is the best time to write. In the morning when dreams are still buzzing through the synapses. In the afternoon while smoking the first cigarette of the day. In the evening after the sun has gone down and the crickets are creating the chorus to which lyrics can flow. I keep a pen and paper with me almost all of the time, and so if inspiration seizes my mind, I’ll crack out the tools and lay down some fresh ink. That being said, I am also a very habitual person, and so I am quite fond of my daily routines. These routines do tend to shift from time to time as I enter different phases of life, but while in a specific routine I try to use it for all its worth.
Geosi Gyasi: Where do you often sit to write?
Scott Thomas Outlar: Lately, most of my verse has been written on a picnic table that is situated in the woods at a local park near my home. It is a chance to get away from all technology, breathe some fresh air, seclude myself from other people, and allow nature to inspire my work. I’ve been doing this for many months now, almost daily, and it has been an amazingly productive session. There have been times where I’ve gone through phases of sitting down at the computer upon first waking and typing out first drafts. My books “Zero-Point Graduation” and “Raw Electric” were both written in this manner. But for the most part, I prefer to write everything by pen and then type it up afterwards. I think, ultimately, that there is no best time or place to write. All places and all times are perfect, depending on who it is doing the writing, what their intention is, and where they happen to be. The gist of it is: Just Write!
Geosi Gyasi: Have you ever received any negative criticisms of your writing?
Scott Thomas Outlar: I have to say that since diving into the depths of the publishing arena last Spring, I can count on one hand the times where I’ve received negative feedback on my work. Now that doesn’t necessarily mean that a whole host of editors who gave my stuff a once over didn’t gag themselves with a spoon before sending out a rejection letter. I have, no doubt, had my allotment of rejections, which is part and parcel to the game, and is something I am sympathetic to and so have no issue with. On those rare occasions where someone has decided it was necessary to spend their precious time insulting my work, I must admit that I’ve found the comments to be quite amusing. The dirty little secret is that I have a bit of a masochistic streak which is alchemically mixed with just a hint of narcissism, and these dual energies cut a winding path through my soul…so when I receive negative feedback, it actually serves to fuel my ego and tickle my hubris bone in a way that I assume is not in alignment with whatever the initial intention of the clownish character who has leveled such insults my way had in mind. As I continue along this path I’m traveling I fully understand that more resistance will arise from those who don’t dig the whole vibe of the Renaissance which I so openly spout off about. I find this to be perfectly normal and acceptable, and, as I say, actually welcome to a certain degree. At the end of the day, my time and energy is singularly focused on the mission which I seek to accomplish with whatever time remains to me in this mortal flesh, so while I do get a kick out of the occasional dagger someone tries to place in my side, I honestly don’t have the luxury of worrying myself over it too much. There is a massive amount of work that lies ahead, and I’ve only just begun to start sowing the fields…
Geosi Gyasi: What was your first published poem?
Scott Thomas Outlar: “Three Part Harmony” – A poem I sent to the wonderful Angie Tibbs at Dissident Voice. I had published a few creative essays at DV by that time, and so thought I’d send a poem their way for consideration. Thankfully, it was accepted, and I’ve been publishing a weekly piece at the Sunday Poetry Page ever since. It was one of the more fortuitous events in my life so far, and I will forever be grateful to Angie for the confidence she had in my work which helped set the spark of confidence that is still burning now inside of me.
Geosi Gyasi: Which specific writer has had the greatest impact on your writing?
Scott Thomas Outlar: This is, quite possibly, the most difficult question you’ve posed thus far because the list of names of those who have influenced and inspired me through the years is long, and I have a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for each of the figures whom I would place upon it. To choose just one is a daunting task, but I’m never one to shy away from a decent challenge…so, in this context, at this particular moment, I will ring the bell and sound the alarm for the great Hunter S. Thompson. His style, his poignancy, his ability to cut to the quick against his foes, his fiery rhetoric, his hyperbolic exclamations, his fusion of politics and sports, his fast-paced lines, his rants, his drug-induced ramblings, his humor, his wit, his sharp bladed pen, his refusal to suffer fools – all of these characteristics resonate with thunder at my core. But it was just as much his rock star persona that attracts me to his words. The good doctor liked to strut around like a flamboyant peacock, and I dig that type of pizzazz with a passion. He was not just a writer, but a primal force of nature; not just a wicked wordsmith, but a wild beast of unbridled fury which was directed against those rotten swine in high offices who must be smashed and driven back into the sea. He was a beacon of light that burned out far too soon…or maybe not…after all, we all must leave this place at some point, so his having exited the stage of life on his own terms was probably the exact thing that needed to happen. His ashes were spread from high above his estate in Woody Creek, Colorado after being shot forth from a towering cannon built specifically for the occasion. It is from those ashes that the idea of the Phoenix Generation was born…
Geosi Gyasi: How often do you write from personal experiences?
Scott Thomas Outlar: From a certain perspective I suppose everything I write is based on personal experience, because even if I’m chronicling something which happened outside of my own consciousness, the words are still my own reflection on whatever that event might happen to be. There is no escaping the self at the end of the day, so it’s probably best to make peace with your own mind and welcome its thoughts as friends. That being said, when it comes to writing autobiographical poems or stories, I’d say it happens more often now than it used to, and I believe this is directly correlated to my having become more comfortable in my own skin over the past few years. When I was turned on to Bukowski last year I definitely entered into a phase where I wanted to shoot straight and say things as honestly as possible, without metaphor, without allusion, without abstractions, without pretentiousness, and without any fancy tricks or fluff. But, then again, I also enjoy using all these devices at times. I have no desire to ever permanently limit my range based on any particular structural system. I seek to keep my pistol loaded with as many different types of bullets as will fit in the chamber. There are many techniques of war in this world, so it’s nice to have a weapon ready for any occasion that may arise.
Geosi Gyasi: Do you spend much time completing a short story as compared to a poem?
Scott Thomas Outlar: My focus during the past year has been almost exclusively on poetry and so I haven’t written any short stories in quite some time, though I certainly do plan on doing so again at some point down the line. Poetry for me comes like lightning…all of a sudden it is on the page. I view my poems as I would a photograph that has been taken. Each one represents a snapshot of time. The emotions of each piece are tied to the specific moment in which it was created. So editing poetry is not something I do lightly. I tend to make as few changes as possible to the original intention from which the piece was inspired. There are exceptions to every rule, and so there are certain occasions when I’ll take a hatchet to a poem and largely rewrite it, but this is rare. A short story on the other hand is always fair game. Though the first drafts are usually written in a similar style as my poems, quickly and during one session, I feel that fleshing these pieces out is necessary in later edits. If a short story needs to go through ten drafts, so be it. If it’s good to go after one edit, that’s fine, also. I’m far more open to outside critique and suggestions on a story than I am on a poem. In fact, I welcome and encourage input on stories I’ve written. Whereas with a poem, I’m willing to listen to what anyone has to say, but ultimately they weren’t there with me in that moment it was being birthed from out of nothing, so it is rare if I’ll follow up with advised alterations. Again, there are exceptions. There have been some excellent recommendations editors have made to me that I’ve been thankful for. Context is always one of the most important aspects of any life circumstance, writing included. I just try to stay open to all possibilities while maintaining original integrity of ideas. You never know where gold might be found.
Geosi Gyasi: Do you gain anything from writing?
Scott Thomas Outlar: Not just anything…at this point everything. The words are my steam valve…a release point…an escape route…a way to tame the shadows…a way to embrace the light…a way to connect with what is boiling just below the surface levels of consciousness…a meditation on what I don’t yet understand about my own psyche…a reflection on what is happening in the world around me. If I didn’t write I would grow too full…I have to empty out to make room for more…a purge of the past…an embracing of the constantly renewing present moment. Writing is the remedy to the sorrows of this life. Writing is the medicine with which I dose away the suffering…but it always lurks right there at the edge of the mind’s awareness…so there must continue to be more words to keep the existential horrors at bay while simultaneously allowing the exclamations of exuberance to be released.
Geosi Gyasi: What are your future literary ambitions?
Scott Thomas Outlar: There is currently a general aura that hangs heavy over the indie poetry scene that is rooted in the downtrodden energy of apathy, disillusion, and nihilism, and that is burdened by the belief that making money, being successful, and having a steady career as a poet is next to impossible. From a certain perspective I can understand such a belief, as, up until now, it has been a rare case to see someone break through and emerge in the wider culture as a financially successful poet. However, it is my intention to not only prove such a theory as being wrong, but to drive a stake through its heart, bury it twelve feet deep in a grave, and then dance upon such a cemetery plot while singing a new high-spirited song with lyrics of affirmation and hallelujah vibrations. Partly my intention is to pave my own path toward such an outcome, but the larger cause has been and always will be to do whatever I possibly can to help herald the artistic Renaissance Revolution of a burgeoning community of writers and artists from all fields that shines a bright new light of consciousness into this decadent and corrupted modern day world. The mainstream, pop culture, shallow, vapid, vacuous, sold-out, propaganda laced, mass marketed, celebrity idol nonsense that is spewed forth from television screens and corporate radio stations is on its way out. The new wave artistic expression is set to rise. My bottom line, bottom dollar, bottom of the bowels roar is to announce such a happening, and to inspire confidence in my peers and contemporaries to start doing the same. Revolutionary movements are manifested through action, it is true, but before action there is intention, before intention there is belief, and before belief there is a dream. The nightmare of what passes for art these days is over, and the new dream is ready to come fully awake. I’m just here to help shake it loose from its coma.