ABP– Thank you for taking this interview, Scott. As one of our first publications ever, Alien Buddha Press had the privilege of releasing your poetry collection Poison in Paradise back in late June of 2017. What can you tell us about that book? What went into writing it, and how do you feel about the collection now almost 3 years later?
STO- It’s my pleasure, Red. I appreciate the opportunity.
I was flipping through the pages of Poison in Paradise while thinking about this question today. Looking back, one of the aspects I dig most is that we included the selection of full color photographs taken by you and Jay Miner. Working to align them in the book to weave a narrative along with the poems was an interesting process and it adds a unique flavor to the collection.
It’s difficult to put my finger on exactly what this book turned out to be. My intention at the time was to flesh out its two sections to reflect the balance between chaos and order. It probably leans a little more toward the latter though. As do I. Vitriolic around the edges.
I’m including the closing poem from the book, “Slate,” which seems to resonate with a different vibe than it did when originally written considering we’re now living in the age of the Wuhan Virus…
Wipe me clean
without Clorox or bleach
just simple honesty
Sanitation is next to salvation
in some circles
ooh and ah
Little spaces in the corner
brought to surface
made to shine
Lord, help me find
the right words
All I have
left to offer
are my dreams
ABP- Then in August of 2018 Abstract Visions of Light came out. Tell us about that book. What are the biggest differences between Poison in Paradise and Abstract Visions?
STO- Abstract Visions of Light is the book I’m most proud of. In recent years, I seem to judge my poems on how well they sound when being performed just as much, if not more so, than how they appear on the page. With this collection I can flip to almost any piece and feel confident reading it aloud. I’m comfortable with its rhythms.
It went through several incarnations before reaching its final state, and I definitely reworked it much more than any of my other books before I was happy with it. At one point it was almost completely gutted as the direction took a different course. Such are the shifting tides of life.
The black and white series of photos you took in Slab City, California also add a dope element in the middle of the book.
ABP- Do you have any other books you have written that you would like to mention?
STO- My most recent collection, Of Sand and Sugar, was released in 2019 through Cyberwit Press. It was meant as a breath of exhalation, transitioning from the style of previous books into what I’m working on for later this year and beyond. That’s the overarching, highfalutin idea in the larger context of my life anyway, but I guess it’s all really just one path down the same line in the end. From cradle to the grave with a flurry of letters scribbled along the way.
I’m collaborating on a book titled Evermore at the moment with my friend, Mihaela Melnic, a poet residing in Caput Mundi. It’s a sordid tale about Elohim and animals on the farm. We’re hopeful that it will see the light of day in 2020.
I’m also working on another split book right now with my buddies, Heath Brougher and Don Beukes. 3T3. It’s shaping up to be an epic project.
ABP- April 20th this year, you are so graciously hosting Alien Buddha Press’ open mic reading from our anthologies This One Time The Alien Buddha Got Soo High… (which you were also featured in) and the new follow-up antho This Other Time The Alien Buddha Got Soo High. Your show is called Songs of Selah, where listeners often call in to read their poetry. What can you tell our WordPress’ readers about Songs of Selah? How long have you been hosting? How many shows have you had?
STO- The show on 4/20 is going to be a blast! I’m looking forward to hearing from the many awesome authors associated with the ABP Anthologies. I just ask that when anyone calls in that evening their mind is properly calibrated for the spirit of the celebration. All smoke is considered holy on the Sabbath.
Songs of Selah launched in the summer of 2018, and the next episode coming up will be #104. It’s a cool platform where I get a chance to interview poets, artists, musicians, health advocates, and other creative souls. Pretty much anyone who wants to come on and shoot the shit is welcome. I also play a little rock ‘n roll, opine on society, cast curses against the Beast System, and generally try to create a comfortable space where people’s life stories can freely flow.
Anyone who might be interested in appearing as a guest or recommending someone they know can get in touch with me via email at 17Numa@gmail.com. Or just send me a message on social media and I’ll be happy to set up an episode.
ABP- What is the poetry/art scene like in Atlanta?
STO- Atlanta has much more to offer than I’ve yet learned. Large cities and I have an on-again/off-again relationship. I tend to go through stages where I prefer the pines. But the writing and art communities I’ve been fortunate enough to connect with have led to meeting some incredible people.
One of my favorite spots for poetry in the area is Phoenix & Dragon Bookstore. Michael Burke hosts an event there once a month that always leads to an inspiring night.
Carol Welter hosts the Wine, Cheese, and Spoken Word event at the UUCA, Ruth Windham hosts poetry readings at the Callanwolde Fine Arts Center, and Joellen Woodall hosts the Play Pen Open Mic at Johnnie MacCracken’s Celtic Pub. I’m really thankful for those three spots as well.
An amazing experience I enjoyed last year was giving a speech and performing a selection of my poetry for the Atlanta Writers Club during an event held at Georgia State University. Ron Aiken was the group’s President at the time, and George Weinstein has since taken the helm. Really solid people involved there, and I recommend writers in the state check out the organization.
ABP- Who are some of your biggest influences as a writer?
STO- My Mother and Father most importantly. Roger Zelazny, Robert Silverberg, Herman Hesse, Henry Miller, Hunter S. Thompson, Joe Casey, Jim Starlin, Friedrich Nietzsche, Edgar Cayce, Maynard James Keenan, Kurt Cobain, Daniel Johns, Brandon Boyd, Eddie Vedder, Joseph Campbell, Michael Tsarion, Dan McDonald, David Wolfe, Jesus Christ, The Buddha, Charles Bukowski, and Jack Kerouac are a few others. At different stages and to varying degrees. Shards and fragments from each remain in my scattered mind.
ABP- Thanks again for taking this interview, Scott. The floor is all yours. In as many words or images as you’d like, share anything you’d like.
STO- Thanks again for the opportunity, Red. Keep going with the great work you’re doing at ABP. Much respect.
This is the first time in a while I’ve focused my attention on forming coherent thoughts. I hope I pulled it off.
There are many crooked branches in the forest, and I was long afraid of human touch. I want to speak it slowly and dance around the point. There is love behind closed eyes of a world at rest, and if all you have to offer is your dreams then let’s start swimming. I believe in blessings and curses alike. But in the end the noblest truth is action, so steady every step toward better days.
As we’re all sheltered safely in place waiting with bated breath for the prophesized inoculation concocted of ambrosia and golden honey by Big Pharma and purely benevolent billionaire philanthropists, it’s important to keep in mind this final, fundamental fact about life: the New World Order really loves you. Oh, also, COVID isn’t actually an acronym for Certificate of Vaccination ID. That’s just a silly coincidence. Selah.