Interview of poet Scott Thomas Outlar
Vatsala Radhakeesoon : Scott Thomas Outlar, welcome to Poetry and Creativity blog! Please tell us about your background, earlier life and actual life?
Scott Thomas Outlar : Well, I was born and raised in the suburbs outside of Atlanta, Georgia. Karmic energy carried over from a previous life brought with it a streak of rebellion in the form of a slash emblazoned straight across my spine. Authority was not my cup of tea as a child, nor as a teenager. It still isn’t to be quite honest. Some things never change. But I’m able to roll with the waves of this world and better understand the ways in which it works at this point. So I just smile and stay connected to the lyrics of my own soul in an attempt to align with the song that originates from a higher source.
I played baseball as a child. That was my sweet spot and comfort zone. The rest of the time I was mostly inside my own head, internalizing whatever I observed in the world at large. I kept silent unless I had some venom to spit. Bit my tongue and swallowed all the words before they could be coughed up, choked on them instead. That’s probably why I eventually turned to the pen and began to pour my heart out on paper. Now I love to shoot the breeze and release any noises that might arise while making merry on the earth. Every lesson learned from the tests, trials, and tribulations of my past led to this exact moment. I am grateful for that. I am thankful for this. I appreciate what is still to come.
V.R : What has been the initial propelling force that led you to
S.T.O : The underlying need to emote from my own spirit is always part of the equation. To get “it” off one’s chest is the tried and true method that all art serves a purpose toward. Poetry fits the bill perfectly. But my main propulsion at this point of the process is born from a desire to relate with and connect to other people. Inspiration is all I could ever ask for, and there is an overabundance of it to be found in life if perception remains focused properly. So I keep my eyes open and drink deep from the overflowing well of creative energy. After digesting, I purge it all back up on the page in my own original way. Micro/macro synchronization is the answer to the existential question about how to find balance in a dualistic reality. Poetry is one spoke on the wheel that keeps rolling through time.
V.R : How does the creative writing process work for you, from initial inspiration stage to final production of a piece of writing?
S.T.O : For me, writing longhand with a pen is important. Primarily because I enjoy it, but also because there is a natural flow that my mind and hand attune with when doing so. Hammering away at the keyboard has its moments when emailing and texting, no doubt, and occasionally is fun to do when capturing a spontaneous stream of thoughts that fly forth in a frenzy from the subconscious. But most of the time I stick with ink. Because it bleeds, and I am the living embodiment of a cliché made incarnate upon the page. What a mess it can make; but oh what beauty is born out of chaos! Outside, in the company of trees, with birds singing and bees buzzing all around is my preferred method of scribbling. I put it into play as often as possible. Right now as I work on this answer for instance. Poems are snapshots of emotions and/or thoughts captured in the flash of a moment. For this reason, my first draft rarely gets any sort of major cosmetic surgery. I might have to clean up around the edges, adjust a few line breaks, eradicate grammatical errors from the scene, and add a word for emphasis or give one the axe if it isn’t serving a proper purpose. But the energy of the inspired moment in which a poem was originally created must remain as the core. I write thousands of these things.No need to alter any of them too much. I’d rather just start a new one.
V.R : Is there any specific poetry- writing style that has influenced your works over the years?
S.T.O : Before poetry (but in a way all of life is poetic, right?) there was science fiction, fantasy, and comic books that sparked my earliest interest in reading. Roger Zelazny, Robert Silverberg, Joe Casey, and Jim Starlin were among some favorite authors. Spiritual and philosophical texts provided a huge turning point after graduating high school in 1999. Nietzsche, Thich Nhat Hanh, and Joseph Campbell come to mind immediately from that phase (which still continues to this day). The chaotic political and cultural rantings of Hunter S. Thompson showcased a style that still creeps up on me from time to time. Kerouac bee-bopped with a jazzy step through my pen back in 2006. Bukowski showed up eight years later and put a more gritty spin on how poetry could be used to get across a message. There are so many others, mostly the work of contemporary poets these days. It’s all a balance act. I do my best to implement a fusion of all the many styles, while also throwing each of them out and ignoring their influence. In the end the words must come from a unique voice, else all those who paved the path before us will toss and turn in their graves. Unless they were burned into ash; in which case they’ll rise up to set our souls aflame.
V.R : What is the current trend of poetry in your country and how do you foresee the future of this written art?
S.T.O : There are so many circles, cliques, and communities (even a few cults) of poetry in the USA. The academics have their situation locked down. The underground scene continues steadily along in its march. The classrooms are full and the coffee houses, too. Readings being bellowed from both directions. It’s a beautiful time for all. Except those who pick and choose one side only to then attack all others. They, of course, are doomed. But ultimately even such as they are necessary to keep balance in order. I happen to get along best with those who have tapped into the energy of renaissance. They happily dance from circle to circle, offering a hand of connection all the while. The buildup feels amazing. The future is undoubtedly going to be a blast.
Exactly where it leads? I don’t know for sure. I have a few predictions kept securely in my back pocket. And one bold prophecy up my sleeve. I’m waiting for the right moment to pull out the aces and slam them down on the table. One thing I can say with certainty about the future is that it will look somewhat similar to the past, but will be so much sweeter. Ripe. Electric. Exploding.
V.R : Each new book written by an author brings further progress or evolution of the writer himself/herself. In the light of this, please can you tell us about your latest poetry book?
S.T.O : I agree. With each new collection I’ve had the intention of learning more about the overall process of publishing, be it the way in which the material is organized, the formatting, the cover design, the collaborative effort with editors and other artists, and all other aspects in between. Poison in Paradise was released in the summer of 2017 though Alien Buddha Press. It was an enlightening experience because there are 25 color photographs taken by Red Focks and Jay Miner included in the book, and so working with them both to make sure the end product satisfied us all was important. My next book, Abstract Visions of Light, will also be published by ABP. I’ve reworked the manuscript twice at this point because of changing life circumstances, and am now in the process of bringing a final draft to light. I’m especially excited about this book because of the long journey it has undergone in my own consciousness to arrive at where it is now. I look forward to hearing other people’s feedback once it has been born.
V.R : What advice would you give to young and emerging authors/poets?
S.T.O : Study your craft from different angles. Take courses in school if it suits you, but always continue seeking out your own path of self-knowledge. Absorb lessons from every teacher, but understand that your unique voice matters most. Mimic what you love until you are able to annihilate that device. Then burn, baby, burn with something so pure it can never be extinguished.
Actually, my advice to young writers is the same as it would be to most anyone else, no matter the field. Your drives, your desires, your skills, your hobbies, your talents, your professions: they are all important. But they don’t define you. Breathe deep and love yourself. Everything else in life will flow properly from that balanced center. Build strong personal relationships that have honesty and depth as their backbone. Your writing will continue to evolve as you tend to other aspects of your life. Cultivate states of health on every level: mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Thrive. You deserve success. In summary: write every day. Hone your style as best you can. Put your words out into the world. Then let the chips fall where they may. Oh, also learn how to write an interesting cover letter. First impressions plant seeds of future bloom.
V.R : Any message for the world?
S.T.O : I’m not sure that I’m properly fit for the job of delivering a message to the world at large. It feels like a heavy task, and it might seem a bit presumptuous on my part. But since the question was asked, and because I do still allow a little bit of ego to be exercised from time to time, I’ll give this a go.
Hey, world, listen up! Get the wax out of your ears. I’ve got a few things to ramble on about…
Be good to one another. Do all your necessary shadow work, get a firm grip on your own conscious perceptions, and don’t project your fears and insecurities outward. Forgive readily with a pure heart, but also be prepared to ward off any evil minions that repeatedly try to take advantage of your good will. Carry both a bouquet of flowers for those intervals during which peace reigns and a sword forged specifically for times of war. It’s a dualistic nature that we exist in, after all. Play the game with honor and integrity while working diligently toward transcendence and enlightenment. Break all cycles and evolve them into a spiral of evolution. Eat foods that vibrate with living electricity. Clean up after yourself. Don’t leave the front door open (vampires might slide in). Smile like you really mean it. Fake it until you make it in times of trouble (Mother Mary knows). Climb the highest mountains and admire the view in a state thankfulness when looking out across the vista below. Don’t fall in love too fast in life, but if you inevitably do, let your heart be true. Keep your wits about you when a fire starts raging. Know that during a flood it’s good enough to simply tread water and keep your head above the currents. Learn to swim at a young age. Dance your cares away, often. Sing from the gut with a visceral voice of joy. Go for the gold but also realize that silver linings can be beautiful (as fate would have it). Meditate. Pray before bed. Fall asleep at a decent hour. Beat the early bird to the worms, and then feed nature a tithe from the palm of your hand. Choose kindness and compassion. Have confidence and be cool. That’s all, folks. Carry on.
V.R : We end up this interesting conversation with some of your poems.
I want to rip the ghosts from your eyes,
breathe them deep into my lungs,
and bury them at my own core
so you can sleep in peace at night
without hearing all their haunting wails.
I want to tease out the secrets
hiding behind your broken smile
so they can dance across your lips
to mute the need for silence
and bless your swollen heart to sing.
I want to divorce your fear
from the darkness
and shine wicked lights of truth
on the spots that hurt the most
so the wounds will finally heal.
I want to pull the knife from your back
using sharpened claws and fangs
and lick to clean the open gash
with a peroxide-laced tongue
and bloody rags doused in sweat.
I want to suck the snake-oil from your neck,
swallow the medicine,
spit out the venom,
and beg the poison to burn away
so ash can feed the flowers of trust.
I want to show you to the fields of chaos
where you can witness their work at play
as bombs descend with eerie whispers
upon a body waiting for acts of war
to trigger all its survival instincts.
I want to lose my mind in yours a while
to watch the notes rise and fall
and learn the sound madness makes
in the moment before the waves break
and send your raft of peace to shore.
Peace is not attained
by always getting
what is wanted
but by working
what life presents us
in each new circumstance
to navigate the terrain
of any challenges
that may arise.
and remain harmonious
as the shifting pendulum
between order and chaos
flows and fluxes
moment by moment
throughout the days.
and know truly
that there are variables
beyond our control
that will create conflict
at certain points,
and so we must
on the direct processes
we are able to influence
so that balance is maintained.
as the guiding force
and let angst dissipate
back into the void
of dark space.
to lead the way
and allow shadows
to find healthy rhythm
with the sun.
Sharing a link for poetry reading at Free Times Café in Toronto, Canada where I had the pleasure of reading alongside Heath Brougher and Philip Elliott:
V.R : Thank you Scott Thomas Outlar for joining us on Poetry and Creativity blog!
S.T.O : You are welcome.