Poetry and other things with Scott Thomas Outlar: A dialogue ---Sangeeta Sharma

Sangeeta Sharma
(In a new ongoing video series of conversations with leading artists and authors, senior editor Sangeeta Sharma discuss things poetic and literary with the renowned poet Scott Thomas Outlar. Excerpts of the video interview here. Ed.)

Q: What are the inner springs of poetry for a prolific writer like you?

A: The innermost spring is the autonomous soul which is connected to the collective source energy of creation (that being consciousness itself).

The connective bond shared with my love, Talia. Our collaborative efforts with Ahi- Suma-Yuta.

Other inspirations include nature, synchronicity, psychology, philosophy, religion, astrology, sociology, culture, relationships, romance, the occult, magic, spiritual esotericism, and the healing arts.

Lately, love, waterfalls, trees, fungus, and the many exploding hues of gorgeous spring blooms have offered the greatest bounty of imaginative forces, sparking something special from the muses.

There is also an addictive, obsessive quality to my personality that acts as an inward turbine of motivation and dedication to the cause.

The nine-year anniversary of my initial publication is coming up soon. To my happy surprise, this past month of April has turned out to be the most prolific period of that journey so far. I somehow wound up having 70 poems and two essays published in 30 different literary venues spanning across nine countries during National Poetry Month.

Q: Poetry as a form of dissidence. Is it working in a mass market? Dissident voices were earlier the norm. Now, very few people will risk that label. Your comments, please?

A: The masses are generally not interested in matters pertaining to spiritual self- actualization, attaining mastery over the senses, geopolitical maneuverings of the grand chessboard, and the Machiavellian machinations of conspirators operating behind the scenes. Although, even as the puppet masters come forth out of the shadows and must face the bright lights, a certain segment of society will still not care a lick to learn what’s going on around them (much less within their own psyches). This idea is toyed with in the following poem.

Long Division

Most people, you’ll find,
can hardly (if at all) handle the unprocessed messes still causing
terror and trauma
from their own childhood yet you expect
the masses to deal with
millions of years of ancestral DNA swirling around the synapses
of their subconscious?

Come on!
I came here only to dance. 

Most people are content to swim with the currents as much as possible. There is only a certain percentage of folks who wield the hearts and wills of salmon to swim upstream. Courage is a virtue sorely lacking in this inverted age headlined by victimhood. It’s less taxing on a person’s time and energy to simply keep their head down and go along to get along. They would rather trade freedom and sovereignty for convenience and gilded cages.

Pointing out problems and asking individuals to get involved with the solutions doesn’t sit well with a populace that is easily distracted and has a short attention span (along with a spoiled temper and entitlement issues).

But I like to do it anyway because my soul is bent toward a provocative essence, and it’s fun to ruffle feathers.

Also, I’ve never catered my writing toward popular culture or the mainstream memes of the majority. I’ve always written, primarily, to entertain myself, and, secondly, to resonate with others who share similar opinions. If I’m able to inspire someone with my words, I feel a sense of spiritual fulfilment.

On a positive note, I find that more people than ever are awakening to the truth about the corrupted institutions of this decadent modern era. The learning curve is steep and sharp. The issues are so obvious they have become impossible to ignore if one wishes to live a life that isn’t untenable. The frog has been boiling incrementally in the pot for a long time, but, finally, the heat is being noticed in a way that causes instincts of survival to kick in. Hoppity-hop. Thank the heavens.

You call yourself a dissident poet. What are the major themes of these songs, the Songs of Selah?

A: Variations on the themes of liberty, freedom, truth, sovereignty, justice, and common sense.

Speaking calmly and stating ideas plainly. Walking steady in good humor. Satire is an important key. The Beast System is monstrous, yes, but most of all it is foolish. Thus, those who deal with the deceptive wares of wickedness are fair game to be mocked, ridiculed, and called to task at every turn.

Some things in life are settled gently with a laugh, but others are far more troubled, still, and these arise from a nest of vipers.

The underlying and overhanging message is to cast off from the corporate/state merged control system/power structure and decalcify the rigid ideological tendencies of authoritarian tyrants and hypocrites.

A poem that originally appeared at Dissident Voice (where I’ve been a weekly contributor for the past nine years) serves as an example:

Shifting the Cycle

Someone said:
Resistance to tyranny is obedience to God.

Someone said:
Have faith in the Lord but get out of the way of rolling rocks.

Someone said:
These people must be stoned out of their gourds
if they think that we
are going to sell our souls to the system of the beast.

Someone said:
Welcome, my son, welcome to the machine.

Someone said:
Big wheels keep on turning.

Someone said:
It is not a tool
that is good or evil, but in how it is used.

Someone said:
I bet one of these wrenches would work wonders
when shoved sideways in that gear.

Q: Please tell us about Scott, the essayist.

A: Where poetry is sometimes abstract and cryptic, my essays tend to be more focused and directed on a particular message.

An avenue that allows elaboration upon the issues and news of the day in longer form. Though it’s still in my heart to help assuage each sentence so it may flow smoothly as a rhythmed dance of syllables and sighs.

I edit mercilessly with eagle eyes when it comes to prose. The message need be clear, and the lines must whistle.

Poems serve as a snapshot in time. Essays are an elaborated ekphrastic response to the larger scenes of life.

Q:  Where poetry is sometimes abstract and cryptic, my essays tend to be more focused and directed on a particular message.

A: An avenue that allows elaboration upon the issues and news of the day in longer form. Though it’s still in my heart to help assuage each sentence so it may flow smoothly as a rhythmed dance of syllables and sighs.

I edit mercilessly with eagle eyes when it comes to prose. The message need be clear, and the lines must whistle.

Poems serve as a snapshot in time. Essays are an elaborated ekphrastic response to the larger scenes of life.

Q: Essay as a literary form is not as popular as it once was in the West. What are the advantages of writing in this genre? Its bigger canvas? Or, long-form appeal for the essayist reflecting upon the world and its affairs?

A: I enjoyed reading essays by Hunter S. Thompson, Norman Mailer, Joseph Campbell, Henry Miller, and other great minds.

I take my cues from the aesthetic technique that believes art should be presented through a lens that portrays it as being both brutal and beautiful. Because, in point of fact, it is.

Eternal optimism with a subtle note of sorrow. This is my rap/spin.

It seems that most forms of writing have suffered a decline in readership. People are either glued to a screen or out tilling the fields. I have great respect for farmers.
Zombies are another story.

Perhaps leisure and sloth are valued more than knowledge and wisdom. It’s a terrible condemnation on the current culture if such a theory is even partially on point. Well, so be it; true enough, as they say.

Q: You do Spoken poetry and podcasts. Your experience as a performer there?

A: I’ve enjoyed performing and/or giving readings in London, Toronto (with yourself and Setu Mag), Pennsylvania, Oregon, Alabama, Tennessee, and across the state of Georgia.

I’ve presented speeches and workshops to the Atlanta Writers Club and the Georgia Writers Museum.

Having experienced social anxiety in my younger years, speaking in public forums at this stage of my life helps me maintain a healthy and positive perspective, knowing that I’ve matured out of the angst and fear.
I hope to soon immerse myself in the literary scene of Maryland, the state I recently moved to.

I hosted 165 episodes of the Songs of Selah podcast from 2018-2021. It was a pleasure interviewing and having conversations with artists, writers, and health enthusiasts from across the world. It seems likely that I’ll host another show one day when the moment is right. I’ve felt the temptations to return.

The most meaningful aspect of performing poetry is being amongst friends and meeting new people at events.

Q: Social-media presence seems to be a pull for citizens of media culture. Do you think it helps in the promotion of authors in the long run?

A: I think social media can be used healthily as a tool to network and stay connected with friends, or it can be used to mindlessly scroll through the newsfeeds of other people’s lives addicted to dopamine hits of connectivity.

It’s like wielding a hammer. You can either use it properly to put nails in the roof and secure the structure, or you can bang away at your own thumb and suffer sure stings.

If done wisely and in moderation, all mediums can be useful and exciting as part of life’s path.

All modalities serve as spokes on the wheel of the authentic self. Segments and portions of the psyche’s overall fullness.

Potentialities of transcendence. Methodologies of persuasion. Portals/gateways of absolution/quantum

Q: Working across visual, audio, audio-visual and print and digital media, what are your deeper insights into these modes of communication in a changing environment of public discourse?

A: Online venues are best at quickly spreading the words. Print has a sentimental allure and tends to be a bit more impactful. Connecting via computer and devices allows for instantaneous communication across the web. But there is no comparison to a live event. Connecting with people in person is top shelf. That’s why they tried to keep us locked down in the gutter during the panic/pandemic.

The subtle energies/aura of the soul are communicated more fully, finely, and focused when in the same space as other people.

Technology is great, but it will never be able to replace the deeper resonance of being incarnate and transferring consciousness across a live wire. Beyond electricity. Source charge. Solar power. Mega watt theory of growth potential.
Q: Your views on short and long forms of fiction, please?

A: I think the writers who can bring whole worlds of fiction ripped straight from their imaginations to life are amazing. I was a big fantasy and science fiction reader for many years. Roger Zelazny and Robert Silverberg were among my favorite scribes in that genre.

In recent years, I’ve been focused more on non-fiction, though I find a good novel or short story to be impressive in their own ways.

The ability to impart a message or encapsulate an idea in a poignant way through a short piece is a hard trick to pull off. Likewise, the commitment and discipline it takes to weave a larger tale is also highly commendable. I tip my hat to those who can pull off either feat.

Q: A cliche but worth asking: Does poetry pay for a highly visible poet like Scott?

A: I would say that it provides an abundance of spiritual riches. As for monetary wealth, I’m still chiselling, grinding, and flowing along happily in pursuit of vast treasure.
Poetry pays in its own particular, peculiar way, which is to say it brings about opportunities that transcend money, experiences that exist beyond the realm of fiscal notes and fiat currency.

You cannot serve both god and mammon, Jesus said. But I think if you have a healthy perspective, you can enjoy them each in their own ways and dance all the while regardless of monies.

Q: Finding love is important in life. Your romantic views?

A: Look for a lover, a partner, a best friend, a soulmate, a queen, a goddess, a witch who helps you in the effort toward becoming the best possible version of yourself.

Look for a lover who challenges you to move past base ego and melt into the emotional resonance of heart consciousness.

Patience, forgiveness, and empathy could be considered a holy trinity in any relationship that expects to withstand the tests of time.

Waiting in the Window’s Wings with a Warm Wave

It feels exciting, even engaging, to be alive

but to love is bliss
and to be loved is electric
Waiting in the Window’s Wings with a Warm Wave

It feels exciting, even engaging, to be alive

but to love is bliss
and to be loved is electric
 so if a smile is contagious

then our synchronized dance might just cause
a hypnotic pandemic

tango heal-all tea
portents of potent potions I had more than faith
that you were always near
it was simply a matter of finally enjoying our
fated encounter of grace

Please chisel out with a gentle hand
a space in my heart where yours can rest

Q: What is your writing schedule?

A: It flows in waves but stays fairly consistent for the most part. In some phases, I’ll write like a man possessed. Regardless of the quantity or quality there might exist in different seasons, I make sure to write in some form every day.

I advocate in favor of journaling dream recall as an initial course of action in the morning upon waking. This solidifies the experience of the subconscious and cements it into reality as a memory. Capture lucid inclinations and flighty behavior before the visions from the far side slip back into ethereal realms.

Writing as an early part of the day sets the stage for words to naturally flow throughout the hours ahead. It greases the creative gears, churns the mental butter, and whips the tongue into a frenzy.

For several years, I would walk every day to Mountain Park and sit at a bench in the woods made of pines. That was where I wrote in the morning or afternoon. I produced thousands of poems there.

Decades ago, before I’d ever been published, I would pace, meander, and dance around my house through the day and night, alone, standing up at the edge of a kitchen bar that was positioned nicely so that whichever notebook I was using would rest at the perfect level for me to write in. That was where I learned to develop a style, and then to hone it. I was touched with madness for some of those hours.

A recent day living in Frederick might look like this: wake up super early, send out emails and submissions before the sun rises, drink fruit juice, take a walk to Baker Park and write poems near the waterfalls, return home (it feels nice to say that in a new place), prepare smoothies full of superfoods, edit the day’s poems and do any other writing-related work, and then chill out through the evening. All the while making sure to spend quality time with my love, Talia.

Q: Your favorite poets?

A: I’ll focus mainly on modern poets. Some contemporaries I admire are: Alan Britt, Heath Brougher, Ryan Quinn Flanagan, Lady Mae Thunderbird, Donna Snyder (who sadly passed away this past year), Mihaela Melnic, Sunil Sharma, Sheikha A., Mela Blust, Dustin Pickering, Sanjeev Sethi. There are countless more pages to be filled with the names of writers whose work I enjoy.

Also, I consider life itself to be poetry in motion. Each action, a lyrical deed. So, anyone I meet who is imbibed with vital lifeforce and is sparked with a primal, creative signal has my applause and stamp of approval.

Q: Memorable quotes?

A: “If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.” – Jesus (The Gospel of Thomas)

“Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster, and if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

“Participate joyfully in the sorrows of the world.” – Joseph Campbell “Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God" – Thomas Jefferson
“All energy flows according to the whims of the great Magnet. What a fool I was to defy him.” – Hunter S. Thompson

“Teenage angst has paid off well, now I’m bored and old.” – Kurt Cobain (Nirvana) “Audit the Fed.” – Ron Paul
“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” – Lao Tzu (Tao Te Ching)

“Everything is for the best in this best of all possible worlds.” – Voltaire (from Candide)

“You have power over your mind — not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” – Marcus Aurelius (Meditations)

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” – Ephesians 6:12 (The Bible)

“Swing on the spiral of our divinity and still be human.” – Maynard James Keenan (Tool)
Brief bio: Scott Thomas Outlar is originally from Atlanta, Georgia. He now lives and writes in Frederick, Maryland. His work has been nominated multiple times for both the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. His essay "Daydreaming Dystopia" placed second in the 2023 Bellarmine Goes Gonzo Writing Contest. He guest-edited the Hope Anthology of Poetry from CultureCult Press as well as the 2019-2023 Western Voices editions of Setu Mag. He is the author of seven books, including Songs of a Dissident (2015), Abstract Visions of Light (2018), Of Sand and Sugar (2019), and Evermore (2021 - written with co-author Mihaela Melnic). Selections of his poetry have been translated and published in 15 languages. He has been a weekly contributor at Dissident Voice for the past nine years. More about Outlar's work can be found at 17Numa.com.

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