This is an interview I did with the Nigerian journal Nibstears earlier this year after winning a poetry contest they hosted on the theme of societal illness. Happy Hour Hallelujah, a book which was mentioned during the interview as being in the works, has now been released through CTU Publishing. Copies can be ordered here at this author’s page.
Nibstears: Good day sir, nice to have you as our poet of the week. May we know you more than this sir?
Scott Thomas Outlar: Thank you for selecting my work in the recent contest. It is an honor to be associated with NIBSTEARS. Such awards are always humbling, and it is certainly a nice feeling whenever one’s work is recognized in such a way.
Well, who am I? Such a question could conceivably lead me off on any number of tangents, so I guess I’ll just start putting ink to paper and see where things go from there. In one sense, I am a simple man living a simple life. Most of my time, energy, and effort is focused on my work…trying to get my words out into the world so that they might be seen by as many sets of eyes as possible.
I began writing a short while after graduating from high school, and I then spent the next thirteen years or so developing and honing my craft until the style had reached the point where I felt comfortable with the idea of submitting it to various journals, magazines, literature blogs, and zines. I was fortunate that my poetry quickly found a home at the social justice newsletter Dissident Voice. I developed a good relationship with the editor Angie Tibbs, and I’ve now been a weekly contributor to the Sunday Poetry Page at the site since the Summer of 2014. Being accepted in this venue gave me the initial boost of confidence to seek out other publications with a burning fiery fervor.
At this point, more than 800 of my poems have appeared in over 180 different print and/or online publications. It has been a fast paced first year and a half in my journey, highlighted by all the great connections I’ve been fortunate enough to make with other writers and editors. There is great talent in the field of contemporary poetry across the world, and reading the work of other wordsmiths helps keep me inspired and passionate about continuing to lace pages with my pen.
In December of 2015 my second chapbook “Songs of a Dissident” was released through Transcendent Zero Press. The poems included in this collection touch on subjects including politics, philosophy, and society. I tried to hit on some of the notes which concern me about modern American culture, such as the heavy-handed nature of the Federal Government both domestically and abroad. Generally speaking, the work is an unapologetic prophecy of the imperialistic empire’s inevitable demise. The people of the world are waking up to the treacherous intentions of the globalist agenda and the henchmen who serve such a system’s unholy pursuits. The book is currently being sold on Amazon.
In January of 2016 I signed a contract with CTU Publishing for a full-length poetry collection titled “Happy Hour Hallelujah” which will be out later this year. I’m currently in the process of cleaning up the final edits on the manuscript, and then all that will remain is securing a cover image that captures the overall energy of the work.
I spend a fair amount of time working on my own website 17Numa.wordpress.com where links to all my published poetry, fiction, essays, interviews, and reviews can be found. The site also features resource pages that I’ve set up as my small way of giving back to the indie/small press community that has treated me so well since I emerged on the scene. There is one page that has links to the personal websites, blogs, and archives of other writers and artists whom I’ve had the pleasure of connecting with. Another page features links to over 230 literary venues for anyone who might be seeking new journals to read and/or publications where they can submit their work.
At the beginning of this year I began helping out as an editor at two online poetry sites, Walking Is Still Honest Press and The Peregrine Muse. W.I.S.H. is a publication that is affiliated with The Southern Collective Experience – a group of writers, artists, journalists, radio personalities, photographers, musicians, and business-minded forward-thinkers who support one another while working cohesively to pierce through the saturated contemporary market with a clear, distinct, dynamic vision of the future. The SCE has many exciting projects lined up in the months ahead that we will be happily revealing as time moves along.
Apart from my writing, I enjoy my daily walk to a local park, reading, researching health-related topics, studying nutrition, following the madness of modern-day political theater, watching an occasional sporting event on television, and oscillating between imbibing good wine for long periods of time and then entering into stages of balanced sobriety. Life is both a feast and a fast, and I make it a point to enjoy both extremes to their fullest.
Nibstears : Sir, from which state are you, and what is your place of birth?
STO: I was born in the suburbs just outside the city of Atlanta, Georgia (U.S.A.) in the year 1980.
Nibstears: As a poet, how do you see poetry in today’s world?
STO: There is a poetic Renaissance in the process of flowering in this day and age. In one sense, there has always been a confined niche audience for the art steeped in academia, but such university circles and cliques, from the outside looking in, seem to be a bit stuffy, haughty, and non-inclusive with the type of elitist environment which they foster. I won’t be too tough in my attack because academia doesn’t necessarily concern me overly much. Let them do what they will. I’ve always tended to go about life as an outsider to all institutions, and so the path that naturally excited me was that of independent publishing. There is seemingly no end to the number of small presses (both online and in print) that cater to the field of poetry. I intuitively sense that this burgeoning growth of presses will continue to draw in new writers and readers alike. The connectivity of the internet has enabled poets from India to Africa to Asia to America to Europe to the Middle East to easily find common ground with their contemporaries around the world. It is truly a beautiful concept to be able to read from such a diverse and eclectic group just by clicking a few buttons on the computer. Every day there are new journals starting up and inviting submissions. It is an organic process born from the inspired love and devotion for the written word that so many individuals are helping to spread.
Nibstears: So how does poetry perform in the area where you come from?
STO: This question excites me greatly because it’s one which I plan on very soon seeking out the answer to. Part of the next stage in my journey involves venturing forth into the city and reading at various events. Many of the connections I’ve made in the publishing process so far have come via the internet, so it will be nice to start meeting fellow poets face to face.
Nibstears: There is a very low profit for poetry. What do you suggest causes it?
STO: There are many possible causes concerning why poetry doesn’t seem to pay much for the vast majority of writers. One reason is the flipside of what I mentioned earlier. Because there is so much free poetry available online, the market has become oversaturated. For all the great benefits that come with having so much poetry available to read, it must also be noted that this leads to an overflow of substandard verse floating around. Vanity publishing and print-on-demand sites have made it possible for just about anyone to release a book.
Poetry, in one sense, is about having a personal outlet of expression, and so I would always encourage anyone who wants to share their thoughts, opinions, and beliefs to do so. But it must be admitted that having so many options does in some ways bring down the demand and value for poetry from a strictly monetary perspective. There is also a nasty but prevalent idea among many people that poets are meant to bleed their hearts and souls while playing the role of “starving artist” in society. This is a horrible sentiment that needs to be shattered posthaste. Artists are generally left-brained in their thinking, and so the business aspect of crunching numbers doesn’t always get calculated into the overall equation.
Nibstears: Okay, now understanding the cause, can you suggest for us the solution?
STO: Well, firstly, we must face the harsh reality that for the majority of poets there will more than likely never be a huge financial gain received from the emotions that they pour forth upon the page. The process itself, in such cases, should be considered its own reward. I believe that for many poets who consider writing to be a hobby, having their words read by other people is enough. These poets are not necessarily driven by profit. With that being said, for the poets who are seeking a steady career, there is hope. To earn a solid living from poetry is possible for those who have the determination (and talent). It takes an indomitable inner drive to rise up through the ocean of so many contemporary writers and reach the surface where one’s work will be noticed and ultimately purchased.
The truth of the matter is that nothing in this world comes freely, and so very rarely is any poet going to be given a free ride to the top. There are exceptions to the rule of course; luck, politics, and nepotism being among them. But in most cases it takes a certain amount of business savvy coupled with artistic merit to garner recognition from a large enough audience to reach a state of financial success. Fortunately, social media platforms provide a good launching pad in the process of marketing and advertising. Self-promotion is considered tacky and unbecoming by many artists, which is a perfectly fine opinion for them to have. Chances are, however, that such artists will never be recognized. It does take a certain amount of courage and bravado to willingly take the plunge and begin promoting one’s own work publically. There is a way to do so tastefully and with grace. Someone has to spread the word, and struggling poets aren’t usually in a position where they can hire an agency or publicist to do the job, so it falls on their own shoulders to carry the cross.
My suggestion, quite simply, is to network. Read as much as possible. Reach out to those writers and editors whom you admire. Make connections within as many poetry communities as possible. Support those whose work you believe in. The laws of reciprocity will help you in return. Loyalty goes a long way in this world that is currently under siege by cowards, criminals, lairs, and thieves. Honor stands out amongst a crowd of swine.
If you want to be successful, you have to make a commitment to stay in the game for the long haul. No process in life brings immediate rewards. There are tests and trials that arise on every path. Be thankful for the challenges that you face. Persistence, patience, and proper perspective do pay off in the end. Success breeds success…it is a natural law of attraction. It has been said before that if you knock upon the door, it shall be opened unto you. But the next part of the equation is just as vital. Once the door opens, you must run through it without hesitation to the other side. Keep your eyes peeled for opportunities that present themselves, and when they do, seize them in the palm of your hand and squeeze tightly. The process is not an easy road to hoe by any stretch of the imagination. But nothing that is truly worthwhile in life comes easily. The overall effort is humbling at times when the ego gets smashed and stomped upon. But when you fall, get right back up. If you can create a state of mindfulness that helps you to enjoy each step along the path, then the work will never seem like a job, but will feel like a natural, organic unfolding of your highest potential coming into fruition. The bottom line/bottom dollar analysis is that if you want to achieve something in life (in this case, financial rewards), then you have to be smart, crafty, flexible, open-minded, courageous, and willing to take on any and all obstacles that appear before you.
Simple enough, right? You bet! Honestly, I’m still in the process of testing all of these theories which I’ve espoused. I’ll report back after further data has been collected.