Interview: Scott Thomas Outlar

Scott Thomas Outlar interviewed by Heath Brougher

Scott Thomas Outlar hosts the site 17Numa.wordpress.com where links to his published poetry, fiction, essays, interviews, and reviews can be found. He also serves as an editor for The Peregrine Muse. His work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net, and has appeared in over 270 venues in the United States and internationally. Scott has been a weekly contributor at the Dissident Voice Sunday Poetry Page for the past three years. His poetry has been translated into Albanian, Afrikaans, Persian, and Italian. His most recent books include: Songs of a Dissident (Transcendent Zero Press, 2015); Chaos Songs (Weasel Press, 2016); Happy Hour Hallelujah (CTU Publishing, 2016); and Poison in Paradise (Alien Buddha Press, 2017).


Heath Brougher: First of all, thank you for taking the time to do this interview. I know you are beyond busy these days. You recently published a new full length book of poetry Poison in Paradise with Alien Buddha Press. Could you tell us a little about the book and its various themes?

Scott Thomas Outlar: Thank you, Heath, for the opportunity to discuss my work here in Setu Magazine.

Scott Thomas Outlar
Poison in Paradise is essentially my attempt to take a fresh stab at the tried and true tale about falling from grace before ultimately rising again on a wave of spiritual absolution. To wit: taking the hit of worldly temptations, getting knocked to the ground, and standing back up to shake off the inherent suffering of life.

Allusions to the garden of Eden are entwined throughout the poems in the first section of the book, along with material dealing with the angst and agony of this mortal experience. Part two seeks to raise its hands toward the sun so as to embrace the full force of God’s infinite light. The underlying message of the book is that by going inward into one’s own psyche to confront the shadow aspects of consciousness, there is a sense of abiding peace that can be obtained to help alleviate the sorrows of existence.

HB: You wear many hats. You are a poet, editor, book reviewer, essayist, columnist, international reader, and the host of the site 17Numa. Could you enlighten us (in a nutshell) just what can be found at 17Numa? 

STO: 17Numa was originally conceived as a website that could serve as a central hub for my work. In that vein, there are links available to all of my published poetry, fiction, essays, interviews, reviews, live performances, and books. I do my best to keep these pages updated regularly, while also writing new posts about what might be going on in my life at any given time.

The site has expanded over the years to now include resource pages as well, one of which has links to hundreds of literary magazines, journals, blogs, indie zines, newspapers, broadsides, and other various venues for anyone who might be seeking new publications where their work can be submitted. I also host a series called Showcase Spotlight that features interviews with other contemporary writers and artists.

HB: You are one of the most prolific submitters in the entire literary world. How are you able to maintain this seemingly impossible task while juggling so many other responsibilities?

STO: An addictive personality! Well, I suppose that’s one of the keys to maintaining the habitual rhythm of the process. Once being introduced to the initial taste of what publishing could offer, I wanted to devour the entire feast. Turns out, the smorgasbord is seemingly never-ending. There are so many different niches of poetry venues offering possible publication due to the growing popularity of art on the internet these days. One lead inevitably branches off in an exponential number of directions. Rabbit holes abound!

In truth, though, I don’t necessarily send out as much material now as I did during the first couple of years. I’ve directed my focus (or tried to) on books, live events, and interviews more in recent months. There are still several respected journals that I consistently contribute to on a regular basis, and I’m always mindful to continue seeking new connections wherever possible.

Thankfully, after having experienced burnout on a few occasions, I’ve now achieved a nice balance in the method to how I approach the overall process.

HB: You are a weekly contributor to the amazing site Dissident Voice. Do you think this has helped you to continue to write so prolifically, knowing that you must have a really good poem to publish every week?

STO: Dissident Voice plays a pivotal role in that balance I just mentioned. I’ve now been a weekly contributor to the Sunday Poetry Page for the past 3 ½ years. Angie Tibbs was the first editor to publish one of my poems back in the spring of 2014, and ever since that time I’ve tried to approach the effort in a professional, timely manner. I will be forever grateful to her for allowing me the opportunity to appear regularly at this social justice site, and it does provide me with a specific target at which to regularly aim. I want to respect the venue by making sure to send the best quality poem I’m capable of each week. Hopefully, I succeed more often than not in this endeavor.

HB: You recently started a really fantastic YouTube channel. Can you tell us how that came about and what kind of videos can be found there?

STO: The YouTube channel was an idea that had been on the backburner for quite some time before I finally launched it a few months ago. I wanted to gain more confidence as a public speaker before putting my voice out there in such a vulnerable position. It began with videos recorded during my readings and performances at poetry events. Lately, however, I’ve expanded the concept to include other aspects of my life. I enjoy walking to the park nearly every day where I do a lot of my writing. Now I’ll take a camera along with me occasionally so that I can rant, rave, and ramble about art, spirituality, health, nutrition, and any other topics that might pop into my head at any given moment. My intention is to start featuring the work of other poets more often. Eventually, I believe that an interview podcast will emerge from this format.

HB: I know you have experienced some tragic things in your life, even recently, though you remain a person brimming with positivity and inner-peace. Could you please tell us how you've been able to overcome these things and still see the sunny side of the world? 

STO: My perception and outlook on life is heavily influenced by the seeds that were planted during my early twenties when I studied the teachings of Christ, Buddha, and Lao Tzu. To be clear, such deep wisdom did not sprout in my consciousness right away. I dealt with my fair share of suffering and depression before beginning to see more clearly. The next step in my development arrived shortly before my 30th birthday when I began learning about living foods and the highest levels of nutrition. Detoxifying my body, mind, heart, and soul proved to be the true turning point that helped me attain an abiding state of inner peace. Knock on wood!

The most pivotal moment in my life so far was watching my father pass away from cancer in early 2014. After experiencing this loss of the most important person in my life, I realized that there was nothing else that could hurt me emotionally. Since that time, I have done my best to live without fear and to shine positive energy into the world. Having a strong circle of family, friends, and readers who support my work has pushed me to continue along the path of trying to constantly become the best man I possibly can on all levels.

HB: I know that you've been writing your entire life but didn't begin submitting for publication until three years ago. Do you think being a part of the "lit world" has changed your writing at all?

STO: It’s interesting because I was out with a friend recently and they happened to ask me a question very similar to this. It caught me off guard at the time because I hadn’t ever thought about how my style might have changed in recent years based on the new circumstances. But this time I’m prepared! Fool me once, and all that jazz…

So let me try and lay it all out. No promises on this making much sense though.

I’d been writing for around 15 years before I truly started to seek publication for my work, so the effort at that point was largely conditioned toward being a personalized affair without much feedback from outside sources. This is good in the sense that it provided a type of therapy session as the time was used to develop my individual craft. But until diving fully into the waters of the submission process one’s true worth in the mind of others can never be valued appropriately. The honest truth is that most editors are wonderful to deal with. It’s the writers whose egos must be watched closely! Though it’s a fruitless pursuit trying to keep some of them in check. Perhaps this speaks directly to the “lit world” portion of your question? Ha. Oh, well. God bless them all, I say! Let the scales of karma sort it all out in the end. But, back to the point at hand…

Heath Brougher
Once I began to establish a bit of footing on solid foundation as a published writer, the feedback from readers started rolling in. There are positive and negative aspects to all situations in life, including commentary from outside voices. We must have balance! And another margarita. Bartender! I am in dire need of assistance with the framing of this answer, as I seem to be careening off topic. Your liquid salve would prove to be a sweet asset in this regard.

The crux of the core at the center of the solution we’re seeking here boils down to this: Yes. I have changed since this journey began. When I’m writing a particular piece now, I instinctively have a much better feel for which type of audience it might appeal to the most. I have a sense of who certain pieces might annoy, also. In this way, I am able to troll the trolls. Lord, what a blessed feeling! Is this life not beautiful? But I digress…

I do my best to never alter the natural flow of my words to suit one style or another with expectations of approval from friends or hisses from haters. “Wouldn’t be prudent at this juncture,” as Mr. Carvey imitating Mr. Bush used to opine on SNL. Maybe at a later date I’ll completely sell out and start penning whatever I’m told will sell like hot cakes. Erotic vampire thriller, anyone? But for right now I still sort of dig the ability to just release the essence of my spirit onto paper and then allow the reaction to materialize organically. Thus appears answers such as these that certain circles might find uncouth. Let them burn.

HB: You have yet another book forthcoming from Alien Buddha Press titled Abstract Visions of Light. Can you give us a glimpse into what we can expect as far as some of the themes and ideas within this forthcoming book?

STO: Neon blue and pink sacred geometric mandala patterns of pure crystallized energy shifting and swirling as frequencies of light against the backdrop of a plain white wall – this is the basic vision that serves as the basis for the book’s title and theme. I will not delve too deeply into the sordid details of what brought about such an idea. Suffice it to say, that particular night many moons ago was one of ecstatic creative jubilation. I’m not exactly sure how the concept of the vision is going to be translated into actual poetic content, but I promise to do my level best in this regard.

I intend for the themes to generally run along the lines of spirituality, psychology, philosophy, nature, and the romantic notion (if not a bit naïve) that a renaissance of art and culture is on the brink of sweeping across the societies of this world. In fact, I firmly believe that such a course is already well underway. I am, indeed, an eternal optimist at heart.

HB: You've now done two books with Alien Buddha Press, which publishes the artwork of Red Focks along with your poetry. This obviously enhances the book. Could you tell us what it means to you to have these amazing images available to choose from and include in your book?

Thank you very much for taking the time to answer these questions. I know how busy you are and very much appreciate it. Keep up the great work!

STO: I could not have asked for a more appropriate painting to grace the cover of Poison in Paradise than the one provided by Red Focks. Similarly, the book definitely benefited from the photography of both Red and Jay Miner. I feel as if we collaborated on a true piece of art all the way around, and I couldn’t be happier with the finished product.

We’re going to give the process another shot with Abstract Visions of Light later this year, though this time the interior imagery will be black and white so that we can offer the collection at a lower price point to readers. I’m looking forward to working with Alien Buddha Press again and sharing this new project with the world.

Thank you for the opportunity to run my mouth a bit, Heath! Selah. 

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