Monkeys on Mute

Thank you to Ian Chung for publishing “Monkeys on Mute” recently at Eunoia Review…

Eunoia Review

Here is a poem with its eyes cut out,
bound in darkness,
blinded by ignorance,
branded with a mark on its forehead
that would make Cain
toss and turn in his grave
from disbelief.

Here is a chest with a hole in its center,
bled out from the empty cavity,
hollow in the bones,
ribs picked clean
and sold to the vultures
that lurk greedily
with lust dancing
through their wicked little thoughts
of carnage.

Here is a song that haunts my soul,
just released,
spun fifty times on repeat
to reflect Revelation
as silenced ghosts from the past
materialize on the scene anew,
weeping and wailing
along with the sounds of devastation
while they linger
to cast aspersions
on all of the love
that went so wrong.

Here is a tree cracking in its trunk,
swaying in the wind,
snapping as the storm
splinters its spine to shatter

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Undertow – Author Scott Thomas Outlar

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

Creative Talents Unleashed

Your love is like a wave sent from God,

crashing over me,

taking my breath away,

pulling me under

where the flames of my heart

can be quenched

in deep waters

that I’ve never

quite learned how to swim.

© 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 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 Mind[less] Muse in 2015. Since beginning to submit his work in 2014, he has had more than 800 poems appear in over 200 print and/or online venues, both in the…

View original post 47 more words

Extinction Is the Genesis of Evolution

Thank you to Ian Chung for publishing my poem “Extinction Is the Genesis of Evolution” recently at Eunoia Review…

Eunoia Review

Crossing the bridge from distortion into silence
creates the electric hum of a new awakening.
If art is an unfolding rhythm then life must be a song in motion.
There are certain comparisons that never seem
to pop up on any quizzes or SAT questions in class.

I will grade true love on a scale of forgiveness.
I will slide with a smile until slipping through the veil of illusions.
I will spit in the river and witness all ripples.

Burning a drag of smoke with no filter
enlivens the flesh of wet lungs to breathe fresh oxygen.
If the bond is stronger than blood then first kisses are a quickening.
Squirrels naturally seek after fallen nuts near the tree
as deeply the mind digs its roots in for winter.

I will promise you less until the future delivers.
I will dance on this spot as the soil grows richer.

View original post 134 more words

Showcase Spotlight #9: Glory Sasikala

Glory Sasikala (Born: January 6th, 1964) is a poet and writer currently residing in Chennai, Tamilnadu. She is the Editor and Publisher of the Monthly Online Prose and Poetry magazine, ‘GloMag’ and is the administrator of the group of the same name on Facebook. She is a language editor and quality analyst by profession.

She was born in Kolkata and did her schooling there. Her husband, who was a bank manager with Canara Bank, died tragically in a road accident in 2008. She has two children, a daughter-in-law, and a four-year-old grandson.

Glory Sasikala photo 5  

Scott Thomas Outlar: Thank you, Glory, for taking some of your time to join me here at 17Numa. I’d like to start off by asking you about where your love for literature, poetry, and art originated. Have you always been drawn to these modes of expression, or was there a certain pivotal moment in life that piqued your interest?

Glory Sasikala: Thank you too, Scott, for having me here. To answer your question directly, yes, there was a pivotal moment. I was seven years old and in the fifth standard, and my homework from school was to learn by heart the poem “Boats Sail On The Rivers” by Christina Georgina Rossetti. A seemingly rather simple poem, so much so it had me wondering if I could write a poem too? So then, I wrote my first poem titled, “Our God Is The Best.” It spoke of how two birds fight over whose God is the best, and then they decide that all Gods are the same and that they all teach love. It ended with something like “All Gods are the best, and so they went back to their nest and took rest.” I did not think I had done anything great, but when I showed it to my father, he seemed stunned. He took copies of the poem and sent it to all our relatives, far and wide. He gave copies to all his colleagues too. He also gave my teachers a copy each, and that’s how I got to be called “The Poetess.” People started writing to me, I was made to write and recite poems in class, and friends and family dropped in to read my poems. My father also encouraged me to carry a notebook with me all the time to jot down my thoughts. These exhibitions of my work came to a standstill when my father died. I was just 10 years old at that time. And I also got teased a lot about my poetry around this time. I was deeply hurt and I also felt vulnerable because my father was not there to protect me. From that day on, I refused to show my work to anyone despite my mother’s insistent requests. I could not stop writing, however; it came naturally to me. I broke that silence only when I turned 18 and had been a literature student for a year. I was able to analyze my own work then, and I realized then for myself that my writing was good.

I come from a family background of very creative people. My great grandfather on my father’s side was a village school teacher during the day, but in the evenings, he enthralled the villagers with stories – a kind of village bard. My grandparents on both sides were creative writers. My parents were voracious readers and writers too, and believed strongly in the power of the written word.

Personally, there was no escaping the English language. I cannot recall a time when I was not surrounded by books, not listening to English music on the Telerad radio (with the green, smiling eye), not arguing and discussing various topics and books with my family. Strangely, I was always blessed with the best of English teachers in all the schools I went to (seven schools in various cities). My command of the language always startled my teachers, but then few children are treated like adults, their opinions highly valued. My father made me read books that were way beyond the capacity of a ten year old, such as Vicar of the Wakefield and St. Bernadette and Rabindranath Tagore’s short stories. I also recall reading Bernard Shaw’s plays – especially reading Candida – when I was just 9 years old, so that I could participate in a discussion about the book that was going on in my family at that time. However, I cannot boast that I understood everything I read, and I sometimes regret those first-time readings at such an early age.

STO: You put so much time and energy into editing GloMag each month, and your efforts have helped connect writers and artists from around the world. What made you decide to launch your magazine? What is your favorite part of the process?

GS: I’ve always found the magazine format very exciting because it accommodates all genres of writing. That love got combined with my love for poetry and my natural ability to lead. I’ve always been a leader right from school days. There’s nothing pompous about my saying that because as a leader I see myself as someone who simply sets the timer before joining the group picture. Someone has to set it…

For my twelfth birthday, my cousin gifted me a simple chapbook of poems. It had 12 poems in it, with pictures on one side and the poem on the other. The paper was glossy. That book became one of closest companions. Sadly, the poets were anonymous, and I’ve never been able to trace them. I lost that book in transit. That book made me dream poetry, music and pictures all the time. I even thought of holding an exhibition in a gallery with music and pictures accompanying my poems.

I was introduced to the computer as late as 2003 for work purposes. But once I got the hang of it, I was like a child with a new toy, one that offered infinite possibilities to explore and fulfill one’s dreams. All my spare time went – has gone – into surfing the net, and against all warnings to be cautious, I decided to put myself out there only for literary purposes. From being in groups, I jumped to moderating my own group, and from there on, to my favorite bandwagon of creating a magazine. I tried several ways to make one, even via a blog, but was somehow dissatisfied. So, some more surfing, some more experimenting, till my eyes fell on Joomag, and I was at peace at last. Here, finally, was my destiny, the combination of poetry, music and pictures that I so ardently sought all my life. Someone had sent me an e-magazine in PDF format around this time, and I liked it very much. So I decided to combine Joomag with the PDF formatting.

Getting writers to contribute remains the hardest – and my favorite – part of the process. Being a writer myself, I know that the most exciting part of writing is the writing itself. After that, there’s that subtle chasm between writing and submitting the work for publishing. There is also this invisible timing when writers are finally ready to part with their work. Understanding this psychological dilemma helps me be a very patient editor and publisher.

My interactions every month with my writers remains a personal and sacred experience, pretty much the way a parent is parting with the baby, handing it over to a caregiver. A lot of trust goes into it that I will handle the baby with care. I tend to write personally to everyone each month and tailor-make their space in the magazine. With some of the regular contributors, this has become one way to keep in touch and to even update me on their personal lives. This again works on the trust that I will hold their privacy sacred.

GloMag February 2017 cover (full)

STO: You published the first print volume of GloMag earlier in 2017. What other plans and aspirations do you have for your venue looking toward the future?

GS: I have big dreams for GloMag even while acknowledging its limitations. I’m trying to make GloMag a one-stop destination for poetry and short prose for the writers in my database. I try to operate round a database of 120 members. Some people leave, some are erratic, new members join in, so that remains a safe number, and on an average, I end up featuring around 100 writers per month. I’m extremely passionate about the online magazine, and I require writers to be loyal to it before they start thinking about the hard copy. I intend bringing out two hard copies per year from 2018 onward – one in February, and one in August. These copies are automatically placed in the main libraries in India by the publisher, but I also want them placed in as many libraries as possible around the world. I’m placing all the online magazines in online libraries. The idea is to ensure that the magazines are preserved. Media remains a challenge. Last time, I was not able to get any media attention for GloMag, but this time, I’m going to give it a good shot, and I hope the contributors will help me with this because I have no direct contacts with the press.

All said and done though, retaining the fun part of GloMag, the spontaneous interactions and feedback, and the growing close-knit community remains my biggest aspiration.

STO: Concerning your own writing, you seem to draw from a well of personal, intimate details to pen your stories. Is this biographical process difficult to undertake, or do you find it cathartic?

GS: The good and bad about my writing is that I’m comfortable with all genres. The bad part of it is that I don’t get to be defined as so and so. I’d love to be known as ‘Glory, the Haiku Lady’ or ‘Glory, the Novelist,’ or something like that. Not happening because greed intervenes. Every time I read a novel or a poem or an essay, I go, “I can do that!” With my biographical accounts – which are all the stories in my first book of short stories, “Madi Maami And Other Stories” – I tend to use the conversational tone: an extension of my rather talkative personality.

The biographical aspect of my writings should be taken with a pinch of salt, I’m afraid. My aim remains to entertain my reader, and so, I don’t remain faithful to events as they really happened. I happily mix up two or three events, add my own fertile imagination, to present a readable concoction. That said, yes, some of the narratives are faithful presentations, but only because they’re entertaining in themselves.

I’ve moved away from personal accounts in my second book of short stories, which is still under construction, “To The Ocean And Other Stories.” A lot of my well-wishers feel I should bring out an autobiography of sorts because of a rather interesting and chequered life, but I won’t be doing that because the secrets I will wish to hide are more interesting than what I’d be willing to reveal. It seems to make more sense to change these secrets into regular fiction at some point. And yes, I can’t be a woman without having secrets deeper than the ocean, can I?

Glory Sasikala - Madi Maami

STO: What projects are you working on at the moment that have you particularly excited?

GS: I’m really, really excited about my bookstore blog: glorysasikala dot blogspot dot in.

I present my books there, both the completed ones and the ones under construction, along with the Instamojo and Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) links that allow immediate online purchase of the work. This site allows me to continue writing even as I promote and sell my work. It’s a complete solution, and I find that very exciting. The promotion bit is going to be very tough, but yes, I like the challenge this time.

The world presented to the current set of writers is a fast-paced one. People don’t have much time, and instant gratification has become the name of the game. That apart, they’re also bombarded with too much information, which leaves them quite cynical and questioning. And as for the writers themselves, easy access to being published has made a writer of almost everyone who can read and write. It’s not like in the olden days, when a duchess would say to her lord, “You know, I heard about this young poet named Keats…”

(Not to demean or under-rate any person who made it big those days, but rather to bring out how much more difficult it is to make your mark in the current scenario.)

The nowadays writer is expected to slog as much at promoting his/her work as at writing. It’s an undeniable nuisance and rather contradictory to quiet and peace that creativity demands. But there it is!

Under these circumstances, I find it rather important to garner a faithful readership before I can call myself a writer. A certain amount of dignity doesn’t allow me to take advantage of friendship and force someone to read my work when they’d rather not do so. I’m more likely to treat my books and e-books as products in the market that will be bought because they hold some real value for the customer.

I know I’ve chosen a rather arduous path, but it’s the only path I wish to tread.

STO: Outside of literary concerns, what hobbies and work activities fill your time where you reside in India?

GS: I take care of my four-year-old grandson during the week days from about 12:30 to 7 pm. These are my happy hours, and I learn from him to live in the moment and appreciate things that we tend to take for granted otherwise. It gets me in touch with innocence once again.

I’m basically a loner. I tend to stay indoors too for days on end. I love to surf the net, new websites excite me a lot. I like to read, and am a “repeat” reader: I like to re-read books. I find history and philosophy very interesting. I also like to watch movies, especially Tamil (my mother tongue) and Hindi movies. I like soft melody a lot and I’m a bit particular about lyrics. Love listening to English songs from the 60s and 70s, as also Hindi and Tamil songs. I also like to window-shop (yes, I do end up buying stuff, especially clothes).

My knowledge that I’m a loner makes me deliberately break the pattern sometimes. I reach out to friends, and am very much a family person. I like cooking for them, and I find cooking therapeutic. I like simple recipes, especially my finds from the interiors of India, from the villages. Indian cuisine is amazing in its variety and can’t be pinned down and categorized because it varies from one state to the other and even from one tribe to another, one caste to another, from one religion to another. The deeper you go into the recesses, into the villages of India, the tastier the food.

Glory Sasikala photo 2

STO: What is the political situation like at this time in your country? Do you concern yourself much with such news, or simply leave it for the lunatics running the asylum to sort out?

GS: The political situation in India isn’t as bad as it is made out to be, or as good as it is made out to be either. The wonderful thing is it’s a secular country and a democratic one. I was a bit puzzled that a party could ask for vote on religious grounds because that’s in direct contradiction to the very definition of secularism, but apparently the constitution allows that. There’s also been a worry about the curtailing of freedom of speech in recent times. But then, in a democratic set-up, how far can anyone go? We still speak out strongly, we still hold our own. I worry more about countries that will not accept a democratic way of life.

Ruling India isn’t an easy task because it’s so diverse. History shows that it’s basically Hindu land. The people are rather benign and peace loving, even to a fault, allowing invaders to plunder the natural wealth of the country. Dictatorship has prevailed, and it’s mostly been kings and queens. This is the first time we’re under democratic rule. Things will take time, and I believe we’re moving in the right direction.

Politics interests me, yes, and there’s a natural aptitude to rush in where angels fear to tread. If there’s a dire need for a revolution, then all citizens must speak up, be proactive, the way they did during the freedom struggle. Right now, there’s nothing like that, and there’s already too many people into politics. Holding positions and offices does not interest me at all. Changing people’s attitude interests me; showing them how to personally get down to changing the world they live in. If they wanted to do away with corruption, how would they – not the government – go about doing it? If they wanted to do away with poverty, how would they – not the government – go about doing it? That interests me more.

STO: What brings you the greatest peace and happiness in life? What should we as individuals be striving after in order to find the deepest possible fulfillment?

GS: What brings you the greatest peace and happiness in life?

Again, to directly answer your question, I get the greatest peace and happiness in life by being a free person, free to make my own decisions and be responsible for them. When you’re given so much freedom, how you utilize it becomes a choice and using it wisely becomes a personal responsibility. At least, it has, in my case.

For a multi-tasker like me, life can be overwhelming. So I try to simplify my thoughts to a single point of focus: my planner for the day set according to my goals. This immediately sorts out my thoughts and helps me move on. You will find me going back to my planner several times during the day, arranging and re-arranging according to changing circumstances.

What should we as individuals be striving after in order to find the deepest possible fulfillment?

We should be striving for freedom all the time. Freedom to be accepted for who we really are – not a version of us that pleases someone else’s sensibilities. There can be nothing more fulfilling than feeling free with every breath we take.

If we do have that freedom, then the next step would be to live a balanced life and seek happiness. I believe in the four-legs-of-a-chair theory – a balancing out of our physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental needs – as being necessary to living a fulfilling life (just as it’s necessary for the four legs of a chair to be even in order for it to be balanced).

I think of happiness as an end in itself, and I find it strange when people are afraid to seek happiness. They sometimes call it “sin” and being “slave to the senses.” Trust me, seeking happiness is the best thing a person can do. Unjustifiably hurting someone – including yourself – whether in pursuit of happiness or otherwise – is what’s wrong (I believe in ‘justified hurting’. If someone’s being unreasonable, standing up for what you believe in is ‘justified hurting’).

So, yes, do seek happiness. This immediately gets you in touch with your own inner tailor-made self. You come to know that you like your steak cooked a certain way, that you like pink in a rose but not on a car, that you’re good at poetry but not prose, etc, etc. It also negates all external factors and competition and focuses attention completely on you. You’re now your own VIP. So then, set goals according to your happiness and passion.

We’re human beings, not robots. So, along with being focused on what we need to do and achieve, we need to be emotionally anchored; we need to build and cherish relationships, make time for our family and friends as well as our spirituality.

Truth is, it’s not everybody’s prerogative to be completely free to make their own choices. We’re often restricted by the society we live in, and yes, by marriage and other commitments. In which case, I believe life should then be treated like a game of rummy. Check your cards to see how you can best play the game of life, exchange your cards for ones that might hold even the smallest ray of hope. It can be as small as saving a one-rupee coin per day, or learning two lines of poetry by heart every day, or just paper and pen and some thoughts of your own….something that brings joy into your life.

It’s amazing how resilient the human spirit is, and you never know how far you can go by just shoveling away.

STO: Thank you again for your time, Glory. If there are any other concerns these questions didn’t cover that you’d care to speak about, please feel free. The floor belongs to you…

GS: Dear Scott, thank you so much for this opportunity. It’s an honor and privilege to be here with you on 17Numa. I find that the questions have been chosen with care to allow me the liberty to delve deep into the recesses of my own mind and collect and arrange my thoughts into comprehensive but precise replies. Strangely, it’s brought into immediate focus issues that have been lying dormant or those I’ve never really consciously thought about. I’ve found closure for some of these, and I’ve found an awakening of possibilities too. It’s also helped me finally vocalize some thoughts that I’ve wished to convey to my readers for a long time.

Over here, I would also like to tell you how much I appreciate all that you do, and how much you inspire me. I see you working very hard to put your poetry out there in the world, and I’ve become subtly aware that you’ve found your niche and are a distinct voice in the world of contemporary poetry. I know that you are relentless in your hard work, and I wish for you only the very best success in all your ventures. Good luck! And thank you so much, once again!

“Cometh the Key,” poem by Scott Thomas Outlar; watercolor painting by Erik Kaye

Thank you to Bea Garth for publishing my poem “Cometh the Key” at Eos: The Creative Context…

Eos: The Creative Context

"Sacred Nourishment," watercolor by Erik Kaye, copyright 2016 “Sacred Nourishment,” watercolor by Erik Kaye, copyright 2016, 2017


Cometh the Key

by Scott Thomas Outlar,
copyright 2017

September crawls inside my chest,
burrows its head
like an ostrich
turning eggs within the heart.
Cracks a few
in the parts that were almost stolen
to cook an omelet
and resurrect the flesh
until the beat is synchronized again
in a healthy rhythm.

The day of birth is both brutal and bloody.
The womb of God
is an ocean of pleasure,
but the suffering experienced on earth
balances out the equation in full.

Each of us will learn
in due time
how righteously
the scales truly operate.
Rip out your feathers
and paint them gold.
The silver rule is a war cry
from eagles perched on high,
waiting patiently,
ready to swoop
at the first sign of weakness.
Survival of the fittest
means you best become wise
to the…

View original post 335 more words

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:

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:

Saira Viola Flowers of War cover