Scott Thomas Outlar: A Dissident and his Songs

Scott Thomas Outlar’s first poetry submission to Dissident Voice was entitled “Three Part Harmony” which was published on June 8, 2014.  Since that date he has become a regular contributor to DV’s Poetry on Sunday.  Now with his book of poetry, Songs of a Dissident,  published, I decided to send him a few questions via e-mail and find out his reaction to the news.

Angie Tibbs:  Hey, Scott Thomas, first of all, congrats hugely on having your book of poetry published; in fact, having the publication date moved up a month!  What was your reaction when you heard the news?

Scott Thomas Outlar: Thank you, Angie! Well, when I first received word that Songs of a Dissident was being released, my initial thought was that the slow, subtle roll out I had planned throughout the month of December was now out the window…so I better get my gears in motion posthaste and start spreading the word with an immediate fervor. My second thought was, Hell Yes! I’d been working on the project with Dustin Pickering of Houston, Texas based Transcendent Zero Press (killer name, right?) since February, so the baby had already been in the womb for nine months and apparently was making waves to burst forth and claim that first sweet breath of oxygen in this world. I’m a big proponent of being adaptable and flowing as best I can with life’s ever-changing currents, so when sudden alterations to the plan need to be made I’m usually able to roll with the punches fairly well. I suppose such a statement is now being put to the test!

AT:51mdaTE3qRL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_  How did Songs of a Dissident come about?

STO: Well, to be perfectly honest, the book owes a great debt of gratitude to Dissident Voice and yourself. I’d been writing for around fifteen years, always having the intention to one day begin publishing my work, but not planning to do so until I was completely committed to diving in with all my energy and giving the process the full dedication it deserves.

That time came shortly after my Father’s passing early last year. When I lost my Dad I realized that whatever time I have left in life must be seized because it could be taken away at any moment. In a sense, I felt like there was nothing left to lose…or be afraid of, for that matter (which can actually be a dangerous prospect unless treated with some modicum of respect and mindfulness).

I started sending out essays I was working on at the time and DV wound up publishing a few of them. That led me to take a shot and send a poem your way. You were the first editor to publish one of my poems, and that became the catalyst which sent me careening forward into the world of indie poetry. I immersed myself in the scene with a fiery passion, sending out my words like a man possessed…which led to a fair amount of success with over 600 poems being published in 150 different print and online venues during the first year of my headfirst plunge into the ocean of submissions.

Fortuitously, I also happened to come across a documentary on Charles Bukowski in November of last year which helped light a fire underneath my backside. I learned at that time about chapbooks and some of the potential roads I could start traveling down as far as publishing is concerned. I began to compile a few collections of my poetry, using excerpts of work that I’d recently had published in various journals and magazines, and one of the ideas that came from that effort was centered on political and social material that had originally appeared at the Dissident Voice Sunday Poetry Page. I put Songs of a Dissident together in a fit of inspiration and sent it to Transcendent Zero Press. After exchanging a few emails with Dustin, we found common ground and started rolling with the project.

AT:  The title, Songs of a Dissident, will almost certainly pique the interest to Dissident Voice readers.  What types of dissident topics did you write about?

STO: This book is an unapologetic prophecy of the empire’s demise. I live in America…the heart of the Beast, as it were. This book is my condemnation of the hierarchical systems in place throughout the various institutions of government, banking, education, religion, military, agriculture, medicine, and basically every other facet of this revolving door, crony, corporate monstrosity that is essentially fascistic yet gets mistakenly passed off as being capitalistic.

I readily admit that I can be prone to ranting, raving, and getting caught up in fits of righteous indignation, but at the heart of my message is a clear cut statement: it is time to draw lines in the sand. I am an anarchist at heart, and so I happily point my finger at the federal government in many instances, but I’m not afraid to also place a fair share of blame on the general public whose apathy has led to such decadence and corruption in American society.

I’m not a perfect saint. I’m not on a high horse. But I have done enough self-analysis and shadow work within my own psyche to identify how treacherous and nefarious the dark side of consciousness can be, and so I believe I’m able to use that understanding on the collective scale to properly identify how sociopaths in high offices weave their webs of foul deception.

There is evil in this world. I don’t shy away from that fact. It would be easy to ignore such a truth and simply stand by as humanity marches itself in lockstep right off the side of a cliff, but I’ve always been up for a good challenge so I figured I might as well throw my cards on the table and go all in on a spiritual Renaissance and artistic Revolution that can help pull our species back from the brink. Not too lofty an idea, eh?

AT:   What do you hope readers will take from your poetry?

STO: A feeling of satisfaction that what was delivered was raw and brutal and honest and true…perhaps too much so…but, then again, perhaps not. My hope is that these electric shock words which I’ve written will crash and shake against the neurons of those who dig it. My hope is that this work brings a dose of smelling salts to alert my friends (and my enemies) that the time to pay attention to what the fuck is going on in the world is way past nigh…is, in fact, now clear and present, is right now…is today…is this time and space we’ve evolved (or devolved?) ourselves into.

If someone reads Songs of a Dissident and isn’t at least slightly offended at some point, then I’ve done something wrong. I hope to push buttons, rouse rabble, cause a commotion, stir the pot, call the kettle black, call a spade a spade, call a joker a joker, toss all the jesters out of ivory towers, spit in the face of the king, laugh in disgust at the queen, tear to the core of the trouble, rip out the guts of the old age, piss on the grave of the war hawks, dance in the ash of the empire, and laugh all the way to apocalypse as the flood cleans the earth for our next phase.

AT:  Do you have any favourite poets who have inspired you?  Or non-poets, for that matter?

STO: I mentioned Bukowski earlier…his straight to the marrow type of writing has served as a huge catalyst for me this past year. I went through a Kerouac stage some years back…his jazzy, free flow, bebop style dug its talons deeply into my psyche and I’ve never been able to fully shake loose (not that I’d necessarily want to). Generally, when it comes to writers of the past, I don’t have many poetic influences, but scribes such as Hunter S. Thompson, Henry Miller, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Hermann Hesse have all left their indelible marks upon my soul. Comic book writers Joe Casey and Jim Starlin, as well as fantasy/science fiction authors such as Roger Zelazny, Robert Silverberg, and Robert H. Heinlein provided countless hours of inspiration through the years.

The list of my past influences is long, but the truth of the matter is that these days I spend almost all of my time reading contemporary poets. The indie lit scene is flooded with talent, and there are countless voices bubbling just below the surface ready to erupt. I truly believe a huge wave is emerging from the underground that will rise up and crush the haughty artifices of institutionalized academia. I make a lot of large claims, I know. We’ll just have to see how the chips fall in the end. Some of the poets who inspire me on a regular basis these days are Heath Brougher, Sarah Frances Moran, Charles Clifford Brooks III, Felino A. Soriano, Don Beukes, Kushal Poddar, Chumki Sharma, Ajise Vincent, Matt Duggan, Allison Grayhurst, and Laura M. Kaminski, among literally hundreds of others. I read a lot. I pay attention to what is going on. I keep three eyes open at all times. Cheers to the poets, the artists, the musicians, and all the muses that help keep the fire burning hot inside my core.

AT: Thanks, Scott Thomas!

Angie Tibbs is Senior Editor of Dissident Voice and Editor of Poetry on Sunday. She can be reached at: angie@dissidentvoice.org. Read other articles by Angie.