Book Review written by Holly Holt
Scott Thomas Outlar
Released December 2015
Transcendent Zero Press
There are works that align with the heartbeat of the world through various parts of history. The United States was given “Common Sense” during a time when we were seeking independence from Great Britain. “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman” graced us at a time when women didn’t have a voice, while “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” made us realize (and do something about) the inhumanity of slavery. Through these works (and there are so many, many others), we are able to see the true power of words, because of the depth of truth that they speak, from authors who have witnessed the world. These words became books—windows to see into the better world these writers are seeking.
In much the same way, Scott Thomas Outlar’s “Songs of a Dissident” seeks a better world through making us aware there is something wrong with this one. From the poem “Plastic Parasites,” he gives us lines that prompt us to pause and consider the devastation occurring in the world around us, “I’m starting to feel drastic/in this world made of plastic/drink a little oil and all is well/Black muck replaces blue blood/it’s spilling in the streets now/hear the sirens blaze as chaos calls…”
His truth, for me, extends into this year’s election, where two “outsiders” are garnering attention from voters, while most of those who dropped out of the race hold positions in the government. Although I am a political junkie, I won’t weigh this review down with names, except to prove Outlar’s truth. His words are brutal, oftentimes weighed heavily with cynicism and anger, but they are much tapped into America’s vein: we are sick of liars and thieves; of looking for true patriots in the wreckage of a nation run by fools; of upper-class roads being smeared with the blood of the over-worked and under-paid.
There are moments in his work that speak of how deep the lies run; moments where you feel there’s nothing but gloom and doom to be had; then, you are witness to something as beautiful as is held in “Feeding The Beast”: “Work is where it’s at –/not some rote, machine-like, mechanistic, / factory assembly line, grind your soul/into dust, nine to five type shit,/but real work,/hands in the dirt work,/sun on your back work,/feeding the homeless work,/doing whatever your passion demands work.” These lines spoke to me above all of the others, to explore what is for you, personally, to be human, without being restrained by a fixed definition; to examine the work that will save your soul, instead of leave it to be ruined by the tar of corruption and greed.
Outlar’s work calls for a revolution, and lines like “How many souls/will rise/on the day that the truth/takes flight/lofty and laced with visions/of a lit up nebula being born…” lead to the image of a phoenix rising from the ashes. The reader can create a compare/contrast between this phoenix, the mythical bird of rebirth, and the eagle, brought into his verse in “Apocalyptic Eagle”: “I see an Eagle in the sky./It has claws that will tear/into the fabric of creation/and spill the spitfire lies/all over the burnt horizon.” I sense in these poems someone who is outraged—and rightly so—over the way the nation is breaking apart; yet, I also sense, in these two sets of lines alone, someone who believes something greater can be formed. In other words: there is, always, hope.
Throughout my time with his 40-page book, my heart spoke of the words written in 1776: “That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.” These words, of course, came from the pens of our Founding Fathers, which aligned with the heartbeat of a nation yet to begin. I will let you decide the historic role of “Songs of a Dissident.”
My summary: deep, entertaining read; makes you think; packs a punch; and doesn’t release you until the end (whereby, you’ll go back and read again). Outlar is intense, so buckle up!
Holt has been published by various magazines and blogs, including The Blue Mountain Review, Eunoia Review, Yellow Chair Review, Hobo Camp Review, and Ishaan Literary Review. She has been published in “Stone, River, Sky: An Anthology of Georgia Poems,” alongside former president Jimmy Carter, among others. Holt serves as the managing editor for Walking Is Still Honest Press; and is also the one-woman show behind Southern Muse Services, which is a business dedicated to artistic renderings, where she takes works from other poets and puts them to digital art. Holt is a full-time student, full-time employee, and a full-time member of The Southern Collective Experience with dreams of writing the next great American novel.
Scott Thomas Outlar hosts the site 17Numa.wordpress.com where links to his published poetry, fiction, essays, books, and interviews can be found.