‘Songs of a Dissident’ by Scott Thomas Outlar: A review

March 17, 2016 Book Reviews , POETRY / FICTION



Sunil Sharma


In his latest book of poetry, angry man Scott Thomas Outlar does it again what he is known to do skillfully—demolish. Building a reputation of a young dissident through his widely-published poems, Scott challenges the lies and questions the official version with the probity of a seasoned lawyer or journalist. Very few poets these days do this job of a compassionate dissident, critical of the power structures and other dominants. The State, of course, is wary of such a hatchet job. But Scott does not care; he willfully takes on the system in his poetry. His sole concern is revealing the truth behind government-speak and deceptions being circulated in the name of administration and governance, supported by the mass media. Setting the radical agenda, opening poem “Trump Hand” poses a moral query for the power-drunk Establishment deaf to such humanist pleas:


How many bombs


from all of the war


poisonous and poised to hiss

with a snake’s tongue

venom on the fang drips

needlepoint precision


How many lives


from all of the lies


carelessly and callously

with spiteful intentions

malicious persuasion

A thousand points

of propaganda

from the lips of cowards

hiding behind a doomed and decadent Empire

dilapidated and disintegrating

toppling like a house of cards

when a hand of five aces

is laid down on the table

by the collective force

of a Renaissance Revolution


This liberal statement registers the fury and anguish of a sensitive soul that cares for the community and nation by transcending the isolation of an individual and taking on the position of a public intellectual as a subversive in a culture that thrives on manufactured wars, half-truths and lies to justify blatant acts of causing bilateral damage to the Other. He disrupts such narratives.

The general tenor of this slim collection remains subversive. The poems are highly political and tone, angry, even caustic.

The task of the poet is not to advance any comforting words but to sear the soul and disturb the general apathy. Scott announces the manifesto of a dissident poet in the following poem “Absolute Zero” by claiming that he intends to employ a syntax incendiary for destroying the popular torpor and record disgust with the state apparatus used to degrade earth and human beings alike:


I write words

to burn holes in souls –

I breathe toxic death


I am cancer incarnate

holed up in the vital organs

sucking dry the host

kissing the glands with poison

pushing the parasitic function

toward absolute zero


The words, under Scott, crackle with new energy and fervour. They become deadly missiles, out to destroy any sense of complacency and smugness of the middle class well-ensconced in the system that bleeds people dry. Protest poetry takes on a new meaning, dimension with Scott. Nothing is sacred. Everything is under a lens. He questions actions of the mighty and suggests that these are inimical to a great humanist civilization. The interrogation of the official version can be disquieting for the powers that be.

Protest poetry is a weapon for writers like Scott. It is not a luxury or an escape from the harsh realities of a mass society. Scott believes in confronting a society that is dangerously leaning towards totalitarianism of a different kind and its practices are increasingly becoming anti-people and pro-rich. His aesthetics is different than the one organic to the hegemonic system. He wants poetry to deliver change by raising consciousness of a well-fed middle class that has ceased thinking critically, caring for good cause and questioning the status quo. His is an important voice in the contemporary global poetry of resistance to structures of power, money and media.

His parting words in “Artificial Dye” sound ominous to any blind oligarchy and are a clarion call for change:


I do not show anger.

I do not lose my cool.

I simply go inward

and calmly, quietly, and methodically

grind one tooth against another,

creating a sharp fang

that one day will bite

with a fury never before seen or heard;

and it will be glorious.

It will be a Revelation.

It will be a Renaissance.

It will be a Revolution


Scott Thomas Outlar, indeed, is a herald of such a summer of discontent that might lead to a new revolution and transformation. His poetry aligns with revolutionary aspirations in a de-radicalized age, an age of consumption and passivity only.

He is our collective conscience-keeper, an Outsider; not an integrated artist chasing awards and positions for his sake.

A must for those readers that care for poetry with fangs, not formalistic, inward-looking and innovative. It is serious stuff and designed to alter perceptions; toxic for toxic times.




Scott Thomas Outlar, ‘Songs of a Dissident’, Transcendent Zero Press Houston, Texas, 2015. 39 pp. ISBN-13: 978-0692526460. $10.00 can be purchased here.





Scott Thomas Outlar

Scott Thomas Outlar hosts the site 17Numa.wordpress.com where links to his published poetry, fiction, essays, and interviews can be found. His chapbook “Songs of a Dissident” was released in 2015 through Transcendent Zero Press and is available on Amazon. Scott’s full-length collection “Happy Hour Hallelujah” is forthcoming through CTU Publishing in 2016.



Sunil Sharma

Sunil Sharmaa college principal, is a writer of Indian EnglishHe has so far published 14 books: four collections of poetry, two of short fiction, one novel, one a critical study of the novel and co-edited six anthologies on prose, poetry and criticism. His six short stories and the novel Minotaur were recently prescribed for the undergraduate classes under the Post-colonial Studies, Clayton University, Georgia, USA. He is a recipient of the UK-based Destiny Poets’ inaugural Poet of the Year award—2012. Recently his poems were published in the UN project: Happiness: The Delight-Tree. He edits online journal Episteme.

1 Comment

  1. Rob Harle March 18, at 05:16

    Great review of a great book, it is time for the sensitive people of the world to take action against these fascist criminals steering us towards destruction.


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