Showcase Spotlight #8: Saira Viola

Applauded by booze bums misfits electric cool aid kids old skool hipsters social pariahs swanky pants literati the great the godless and a stray Siamese kitty. Viola spits and howls poetic fire. Pulp that pulsates and prosody that burns holes in the page. Destroying cup and saucer verse as we know it. A bitch slap in the face of stuffy traditionalists and a wail of protest in the ears of smug fat cats. Now rebel yelling live and direct from the jumping apple NYC.

Listen to an audio version of Viola’s bio here.

Saira Viola photo


Scott Thomas Outlar: First off, Saira, I’d like to thank you for taking some of your time to answer these questions. I’ve enjoyed your poetry for a long while now, and so it’s an honor to feature you in a Showcase Spotlight here at 17Numa. Let’s start off with something simple. When did you begin writing? Has it always been a serious pursuit for you, or was there a certain moment/event that really set you along the path you’re travelling now?

Saira Viola: Thank you sincerely for taking an interest in my work. It’s funkalicious being here. I began scribbling short stories and poetic bibble babble as a child when my family and I were uprooted from our home and we were forced to leave Africa for the more austere shores of Britain. It was a stiff starchy London when we arrived. One grey eyed morning my mother sent me off to school dressed in my school uniform, but unbeknownst to her I’d smuggled my emerald green shimmery bikini and flip flops into my satchel. I thought if I take my beach stuff with me, I might be able to play in the sand. Before morning assembly I changed into my bikini and sat cross-legged in front of the entire school with my woolen coat half buttoned up and my bathing suit on show. The headmistress frog marched me out of the assembly hall, made me stand with my face to the wall and rapped me on the knuckles with a wooden ruler. Then my mother was summoned from work. I remember feeling much better when I put pen to paper. I’ve always been curious about the world. Growing up I was always asking questions: ‘Who lives on the moon?’ ‘Can butterflies talk?’ ‘Why are we standing in line?’ With writing I find you have the freedom to a certain degree to create your own answers, make up your own realities. Mostly I write because it steals the crap out of the day and because it spanks my soul.

STO: Bravado is cool when it can be backed up. Your writing proves that point in spades because it takes a certain set of steely guts to work up the nerve to coin your own style. You did so with “sonic scatterscript”. Can you elaborate on what this technique means to you, and how you conjured it into existence?

SV: I used to be a lyricist for a punk band Suburban Acid. One hot night in July after we’d run ramalamadingdong in one of those uber-cool hip and howl bars, we headed over to Chateau Marmont. One of the band members had a John Belushi obsession, and after about twenty minutes of haggling we managed to get a couple of standard guest rooms. My polite British accent seemed to do the trick. Anyway, later that evening after raiding the mini bar and snacking on American candy, I had a dream about Jim Morrison, Sam Cooke, and a mermaid named Fizzbit. Jim Morrison had gold dusted hair and was running barefoot in a rainbow coloured field. Sam was serenading beautiful, ethereal, wet-skinned Fizzbit on a stretch of beach rock, while she was smoothing her flame coloured curls with a magic comb made of tortoiseshell that fluted random lines of Bowie songs. They were speaking in tongues and sitting perched on huge lotus leaves in a circle. When I woke up I dashed off several verses. Each sentence had a tidy brevity to it. I used a combination of assonance, alliteration, word play, and rhythmic references to popular culture and art using song- rap and lyrical beats. That morning I spied a well-known American glamour model in the lobby and wrote: ‘She was a wiggle and giggle chick with a slut bomb pout and Jenna Jameson bounce.’ Sonic Scatterscript was born.

Saira Viola Don't Shoot the Messenger cover

STO: From what I’ve read of your work, you show no semblance of fear in tackling subversive subjects. You take political opponents head on while shaking both fists against the injustices observed in this oft-times wicked world. What motivates you to tackle those nooks, crannies, and corners of society that many writers would just assume shy away from?

SV: In response to a question about the politics of Guernica, Picasso said: “What do you think an artist is? An imbecile who only has eyes if he’s a painter, ears if he’s a musician, or a lyre in every chamber of his heart if he’s a poet – or even, if he’s a boxer, only some muscles? Quite the contrary, he is at the same time a political being constantly alert to the horrifying, passionate or pleasing events in the world, shaping himself completely in their image. How is it possible to be uninterested in other men and by virtue of what cold nonchalance can you detach yourself from the life that they supply so copiously? No, painting is not made to decorate apartments. It’s an offensive and defensive weapon against the enemy.”

What is true of painting is equally true of writing. Politics continuously shapes us, consciously and unconsciously. Political and economic forces beyond our immediate control determine the kind of life we have, the quality of air we breathe, the type of food we eat, where we live, what school we attend and even how many of our dreams will slip by and how many we get to make true. And to a large degree it’s such forces that have shaped my life and my thinking. When we moved to England we had to start over. I was a foreigner and routinely hammered for it. Made to feel like I didn’t belong. But I found solace in writing and was welcomed by counter culture rebels and outsiders. Regular stints volunteering at soup kitchens and homeless shelters taught me how poverty stigmatises and demonises. Denied access to everyday services because you can’t provide an address. Many homeless people will struggle to vote, rent a car, get medical care, or open a basic bank account. Even slapping a deuce will be a daily challenge if you’re homeless. Will you use the public highway as a toilet or be allowed the privacy and courtesy of a restroom? Your very being is under threat. And you’re forced to exist in a twilight world. But you can’t afford to just sit back and rattle a cup for change. You have to be sharp and nimble to survive. Poverty can steal your identity and rob you of your humanity, so it’s an issue I feel we have to tackle as more and more people become victims of a corrupt financial system that’s ostensibly rigged against them. Through literature, poets -writers- can find ways to confront these issues and use the power of language and all the treasures of creative devices to air these topics. I also pen quiet stuff too. I’m energised by the lyrical drama of nature and all its pulsing energy. I’d like to think I’m open to writing about a whole kaleidoscope of different experiences and ideas, and I’m still exploring and experimenting with language.

Saira Viola photo 2

STO: There is also a certain lyrical quality to the way your verse flows. Do you listen to music while you write? Who are some of your influences and inspirations?

SV: Yes, music is an integral part of my work. I think in rhyme and verse, which can be a little distracting if I want to play with free verse forms and shape sentences using other techniques. For me the mighty polymath Gil Scott Heron, novelist, political activist, poet, singer, songwriter rapper, is a huge inspiration. The way he fused funk, soul, jazz and blues with rhythmic spoken word to rail against social injustice, nuclear war, racism, Vietnam, the Nixon administration – still resonates. A genius-political funketeer. He was a trail blazer a word – wit innovator and his influence can be still be felt today. I do have a very broad musical palette, from classic blues to Amazonian bee buzz. It very much depends on the mood and vibe at the time: Mickey Champion, Wu Tang Clang, Unitas Quick, Marvin Gaye, Elvis, Bob Dylan, Ray Charles, Public Enemy, NWA, Mozart, Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Prince, The Clash, Bowie .

Saira Viola Jukebox cover

STO: I’ve only asked about your poetry thus far, but you are also a gifted fiction writer. Can you speak a bit about your mystery/crime novel, Jukebox? What can new readers expect to find within its pages?

SV: Jukebox is a free-wheeling crime fiction inspired by real events. It tells the story of Nick Stringer, a young debt ridden London lawyer who dreams of rock stardom. Forced to make a Faustian pact with his crime boss uncle Mel, Nick sinks into fraud and murder. Either he must fight to get out or take over as boss. Uncle Mel, despite his predictable machismo, has a legion of demons to contend with – notably his feelings for transsexual glamour model Mimi Deepridge and the challenges this raises for his Jewish faith. Readers can expect a darkly comedic exposé of London’s bloated belly of greed, with plenty of sex  sleaze and a backstage pass to London’s criminarti. But honestly it’s best summed up by crime critic and Brit journalist Andre Paine: “Jukebox is a dirty, delinquent satire with plenty of scabrous humour, but it also holds up a mirror to a society obsessed with the wrong kind of celebrity. If you can get into its rhythm, Jukebox is a compelling crime caper.” It’s available now and published by Fahrenheit Press: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jukebox-Saira-Viola-ebook/dp/B06WVN5XC3

STO: On a more somber note, your friend, mentor, and avid supporter, Heathcote Williams, passed away recently. A powerful tribute that you penned in his honor was published at International Times. Is there anything else you’d like to share about the influence he had on your life and in your development as a writer?

SV: Heathcote wasn’t just a feisty leopard  of literature. He was a swirling, whirling, counter culture wizard who lambasted the establishment for decades and used every artistic weapon in his talented arsenal to provoke, agitate, and inspire. He was a hero spearheading the London squatting movement so homeless Londoners had a place to live, setting up the Ruff Tuff Cream Puff Agency and creating ‘the anarchist country within a country, the free and independent republic of Frestonia’. Heathcote encouraged me to be bold and take risks with my creative endeavours but he was passionate about the need to champion the rights of those who were ignored. I was stunned on first approaching him just how accessible he was. In a world of exclusivity VIPs and sliding scale celebrities he was completely available. He was generous with his time and his contacts and did his level best to help me and others. I found it extraordinary, given that publishing is such a tough racket to break into, that he would actively contact people on my behalf and bluntly ask them to assist me. Not everyone in creative circles is that magnanimous, and ordinarily such contacts are jealously guarded. Heathcote often expressed his disapproval to me of this prevailing attitude, and he practiced a more inclusive approach to blossoming talent. He used to write his personal email address on letters and packages, and if you wrote him a letter he would reply personally. He never delegated that responsibility to an assistant or third party. He was a genius- but gentle and humble. He never had that ‘celebrity tag,’ although he oozed charisma and was so warm hearted that people were hypnotically drawn to him. Heathcote had a wonderful sense of mischief and would often regale me with stories of the famous and infamous as we jousted over words and collaborated on different works. He was prolific. An honest, kind man who wanted to change the world through his exploding artistic palette. He has left us with a broad eclectic body of work, and I urge all of your readers to acquaint themselves with his incredible legacy. He is guaranteed to inspire, shock, and mostly electrify.

Saira Viola (Heathcote Williams)

STO: Thank you again for your time, Saira. As the calendar flips into the latter half of 2017, what are you most focused on for the remainder of this year? Are there any projects that have you particularly excited at the moment?

SV: The rest of the year I’ll be working on my next novel, hawking my screenplay, polishing off the latest poetry manuscript and collaborating on a theatrical adaptation of one of my novels. I’m also excited to be involved in a grass roots reading initiative for disadvantaged children. Reading is a passport to other lands, a magic carpet ride to a better way of life. Everyone should have the opportunity to read. Finally I’d like to say keep listening to the music. Even garbage cans talk in the rain. Poetry books available to buy from UB books here: http://undergroundbooks.storenvy.com/products/17543624-flowers-of-war-saira-viola

Saira Viola Flowers of War cover

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Two poems | by Scott Thomas Outlar

Big thank you to Janet Olabisi and Communicators League for publishing two of my poems recently…

Communicators League

Chickens Hatching

Even when there remains

nothing left to say,

our silence can prove to be

the weapon of gold

that helps to save

lost souls in the end.

There is no war

righteous enough

to convince me

to flick my tongue

in anger

or pick up a sword

in disgust

this time.

All of my dragons

lay out slain

behind me

on the path;

their bones buried

beneath the ash.

We breathe this sacrament

of sacred fire

into our lungs

together as One;

and now

only parasitic

mosquitos remain

to be slaughtered

until we have recovered

all of the blood

from generations

they’ve tried

their damnedest

to taint.

Victory was bred

into our destiny

from the very beginning;

thank God the fervor

of fate

has finally

come home to roost.


Cuddling Transcendence

 

The contours of your face

are silken smooth

with amber blushing hues

rosy on the cheeks

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Interview: Ink in Thirds

This interview with Grace Black originally appeared at Ink in Thirds in September of 2016. It was recently brought to my attention that the site is no longer operational, so I thought I’d post our short conversation here for posterity. 


Seated 17

Grace Black: Give us a quote that inspires you:

Scott Thomas Outlar: “If you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.” – Joseph Campbell

GB: What is your writing process like?

STO: Schedules may vary depending on weather. Or Mood. Or diet. Or amount of rest from the night before. Or how many projects are piled up at any given juncture. However, the basic mojo remains relatively the same. Most of my work is initially written by hand, with a pen, on ancient papyrus salvaged from a tomb recently discovered under the Sphinx. It’s a vast conspiracy involving all sorts of international rogue agencies. I’ve been trying to keep it hush-hush, but I guess the cat’s out of the bag now. Just, please, for the love of God, don’t tell “Them” I told you. Anyway, after ink hits page, I’ll then type up the material while performing any necessary edits that are noticed. If it’s a poem, this will usually be the final draft, other than a minor tweak here or there that might have been initially overlooked. I do my level best to maintain the original emotional integrity and spontaneity that a poem is born from. If the piece happens to be an essay or short story, any number of further edits could be called for. I don’t mind hacking away at prose in an effort to hammer it into a more defined form. As far as time and place is concerned, I’ll write whenever and wherever an idea pops into my mind. After first waking up from dreaming, while driving along down the highway (not recommended in areas with high numbers of state troopers), after scrolling through social media and being ignited by some asinine comment or other, in the middle of a meal, or as my eyes are droopily starting to fade in the early a.m. hours while I try to scribble one last thought down. Lately, my routine has involved walking up to the local park during the afternoon where I’ll make my way into the woods and sit at a picnic table to write verse.

GB: Why do you write?

STO: To seek out fresh rhythms. To explore the depths of consciousness. To excite new neuron pathways. To ignite the pulse in the back of my brain. To bleed my mind on the page. To drain ink through a sieve. To mock the System of the Beast. To laugh. To dance. To feast. To make merry in a world full of wickedness. To burn old paradigms to ash. To build bridges between allies. To dive headfirst into the core of chaos, rupture its nexus, and rise back up to the surface sporting a renewed spirit on fire with higher order awareness. To kiss cancer. To lick disease. To scratch old wounds. To taste the salve of sympathy, empathy, and compassion. To stare suffering and sorrow squarely in the eyes. To cast stones at ivory towers. To rage righteous against fat cats and their false splendor. To strengthen a steeled will that never surrenders. To deliver the goods. To watch the chickens come home to roost. To plant seeds and cultivate their roots. To hoot. To holler. To climb mountains and yell. To trip the sky fantastic. To shun a false paradise of plastic. To gather my wits that they might be spit as flames. To send signals of smoke over the plains. To choke the enemy into submission. To shine a light of love on lies. To honor the truth at all costs. To profess a path toward peace. To rouse the rabble. To stir the nest of hornets. To express an unyielding devotion to constant, continual, progressive, evolutionary adaptation. To align with the symphony of the spheres. To tune in with the orchestra of God. To mediate. To practice mindfulness. To meander here and there … and back again. To offend. To provoke. To antagonize. To pass judgment. To test my heart against the feather on karma’s scale. To wage war against injustice. To weep in existential crisis. To flux. To flow. To ride waves of peaked emotion. To suspend disbelief. To manifest dreams. To roar with fevered imagination. To topple empires. To announce a new age of anarchy. To sing Psalms of Selah. To perhaps, one day, for one brief moment, connect with that whispered miracle of perfect peace which is rumored to be found in the kingdom within. To know the divine nature of existence. To shed this mortal skin. To rest, eternally, as One, forever.

GB: What is a recent story or poem you’ve had published elsewhere that we should read?

STO: I’ve been writing a weekly contribution for the Sunday Poetry Page at the social justice newsletter Dissident Voice for the past two years. This is a recent piece that appeared there called “Deep Infatuation.” 

GB: General comments or questions:

STO: I’m honored to participate in this feature, and I would just like to say thank you for the opportunity to say a few words about my work. All the best with future issues of Ink in Thirds!

Homecoming – Author Scott Thomas Outlar

Thank you to Raja Williams and CTU Publishing for posting this excerpt from my book, Happy Hour Hallelujah…

Creative Talents Unleashed

I close my eyes for the briefest moment

and catch a glimpse of a tiny black dot

in the back of my mind

hovering behind my eyes

that suddenly explodes in red ignition

like a fiery halo

burning over a vast horizon

singing to me sweetly

luring me in like a siren

with a gentle whisper

to return

to come home

to be as One

again

finally

in absolution

© Scott Thomas Outlar

Happy Hour Hallelujah front cover draft

Excerpt from the book

“Happy Hour Hallelujah”


Seated (Visions of Verse) About the Author

Scott Thomas Outlar resides in the suburbs outside of Atlanta, Georgia where he spends the hours flowing and fluxing with the ever-changing currents of the Tao River while laughing at and/or weeping over life’s existential nature. He hosts the site 17Numa.wordpress.com where links to his published poetry, fiction, essays, and interviews can be found. His poem “Poetic Points” was nominated for Best of the Net by The…

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Scott Thomas Outlar – Three Poems

Thankful to the editorial board of The Galway Review for publishing three of my poems there recently…

The Galway Review

Scott Thomas Outlar hosts the site 17Numa.wordpress.com where links to his published poetry, fiction, essays, interviews, reviews, and books can be found. His work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. Scott serves as an editor for The Peregrine Muse and Novelmasters. He has been a weekly contributor at the Dissident Voice Sunday Poetry Page for the past three years.


If Ever There Were an Idol

Morphine drips
as a deep breath from God
to numb away your suffering
though sorrow remains

Tip of the tongue
spread from the lungs
laced through the blood
heavy on the liver
where black cells
metastasize

Deep in the mind
memories arise
of unconditional love
then
now
and forever
after

Everything good
I’ve learned in this life
came by observing your actions
from the very beginning

Modeling my steps
on those you took
though mine still fall short
at…

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All the Colors in Your Eyes

Laughing 4

I believe the joke told from the audience at the time was about wine. Shoot, that’s surely one way to make me smile. These scenarios can always be taken a step further, however, with a bit of uproarious laughter.
 
I am a simple man. I prefer a dance to an argument. I favor bright light to the darkness (albeit always with the slightest tinge of shadow just to maintain balance). I left my nihilism behind in the last decade. Farewell.
 
I am a recovering fool. Just joking, I remain ever the same in that regard. These things cannot be helped. Life is a blessed journey, no doubt, although it comes with its fair share of challenges. I take it quite seriously, but also learned somewhere along the way that it becomes much more sweet if enjoyed in a state of happiness and peace. I’ve been doing my level best to methodically, meticulously, and mindfully move forward for years now. Why would I ever stop the process at this point? Here’s a hint: I wouldn’t. Neither would you. That’s why we happen to get along so well.
 
This is the link to a video I made recently at one of the local parks I like to frequent. Please forgive the rough edge to my voice in this recital as it was a fresh piece I’d just penned. Also, singing when a stranger might come around the bend at any given moment can feel a bit strange. But I’ve realized lately that entering a state of vulnerability plays an important role in my personal growth.
 
Cheers, my friends! Thank you for swinging by 17Numa.

July 2017 Recap … Let It Burn … Let It Rise

The sand of the seventh month slowly slips away. Don’t grasp too tightly, the cycle was always destined to shift unto August. Unclench your fists and your teeth. Come on, we’ve been playing this same game for ages. Don’t lose your head on me now. Stay cool. We’ll make it through to the other side, I promise. Besides, there’s still one more day left to feast upon. Ravish the hours. Suck them dry. Use some tongue.
On Stage 14
Before the last light flickers out and forever fades away from July, I wanted to take a moment and say a huge thank you to all the editors associated with these 23 venues for accepting and/or publishing my poetry, essays, and interviews during the past month. I continue pushing the pace as best I can. But I would be nowhere without your help. The same should certainly be said for those who read and support my work. It is truly appreciated…
 
Dissident Voice; Our Poetry Archive; The Writer’s Space; Coffee with Underhill; CTU Publishing; 48th Street Press; PPP Ezine; The Beautiful Space; Burning House Press; Advaitam Speaks Literary Journal; The Wayward Sword; Mahatma Guru Magazine; Praxis Magazine; ELSiEiSY; GloMag; JD DeHart’s Reading and Literature Resources; The Best of … The North Georgia Mountains; Ariel Chart; Dime Show Review; poeticdiversity; CultureCult Magazine; Narrow Road; and Tuck Magazine.
Black and White Street 14
After an 18 month stint serving as editor for Walking Is Still Honest Press, I have decided to step away from that position. It was an awesome experience, but this will free up more time to focus on my own work moving forward. Oh, who am I kidding? I’m still an editor at The Peregrine Muse, Novelmasters, The Blue Mountain Review, and here at 17Numa. With plans to launch another new journal, Happy Hour Hallelujah, in the days ahead. I stay busy. Always. A note from the W.I.S.H. editorial desk about the transition can be read here.
 
One of the highlights during July was a photo shoot that Mechelle Wilson Ballew and I did after the Visions of Verse poetry event in Jasper, Georgia. She showed me all around the city to set up different scenes, working her usual magic behind the camera. The photos in this post, and those I’ve been sharing on Facebook and Twitter of late, are from our session.
Storm 36
I also enjoyed attending the Wine, Cheese, and Spoken Word open mic hosted by Carol Douglas and held at the UUCA in Atlanta, Georgia. The atmosphere in the venue is great, and it was a pleasure reading a few pieces from my new book, Poison in Paradise. I’m very much looking forward to this coming January when I’ll be returning to do a book signing as the featured reader! More details on that in due time, but, for now, you can listen to my performance here.
 
There were positive developments on many fronts recently, but perhaps my favorite part of the month was running my mouth while acting a fool on YouTube. Please feel free to swing by, check out some of the videos, and, most importantly, subscribe to the channel here.
 
All good things in life must eventually come to an end. Thankfully, the naturally occurring rhythms of time and space always create the perfect opportunity for new beginnings. Let it burn. Let it rise.
 
Selah,
Scott Thomas Outlar
 
P.S.
 
Please pick up a copy of Poison in Paradise from Alien Buddha Press at this link today. Purchasing books is truly the best way you can show support for independent authors and publishers. Thank you!
Poison in Paradise full cover JPG