Relying on mythology, a wide range of forms and the vision of his artistic collaborator, Marc Snyder, Sloboda completed 100 pages of poetry over a period of four or five years. He gave the collection a title from Shakespeare’s “Macbeth.”
Sloboda said this second book helped him mature as a poet because working with an artist took the poems “beyond a reimagining.” Snyder created a series of linocuts based on the poems, and Sloboda in turn revised the poems in ways that wouldn’t have been possible without Snyder’s art.
“I appreciated learning how to re-see my own work,” Sloboda said.
Readers who enjoy the work of poets Russell Edson and James Tate — “poets who explore the surreal without eliminating all of the context of everyday life” — might be most receptive to Sloboda’s poetry, he said.
Buffalo, N.Y.-based press sunnyoutside was certainly receptive to them. “Our Rarer Monsters” is the second full-length collection of Sloboda’s poetry published by the small, independent press, which has also published two chapbook-length collections of his work.
Sloboda said sunnyoutside publisher David McNamara is “also a craftsman when it comes to book design,” and that he appreciated the editorial input and care McNamara offered his manuscript.
“I have a lot of respect for small presses,” Sloboda said, citing BOA Editions, Graywolf Press, Copper Canyon Press and Manic D Press as some favorite poetry book publishers, and Rattle, Mythic Delirium, Modern Haiku and Lilliput Review as favorite literary journals.
As a York resident, Sloboda acknowledged an active local literary scene that begins, for him, in the classrooms of Penn State York, where he’s been a professor in the English department for more than a decade.
“I have exceptional students,” he said. “I tell them: ‘Practice a lot, and make mistakes. Make messes. Play around … and don’t be afraid.’”
Sloboda believes that poetry has pragmatic, everyday uses as well.
“People get so locked into literal mindedness,” he said, “but if you can write great haiku, you can write great subject lines for emails. If you can figure out how to project the voice of someone in a persona poem, that will help you if you have to write a speech or give a presentation. We get kind of stuck, so to be able to imaginatively move into other modes, that’s what poetry is all about. It has practical outcomes for people. It teaches you to get outside of yourself a bit.”
Get a copy: “Our Rarer Monsters” is available on Amazon and at the Penn State York campus bookstore. Sloboda will read from his new book as part of “Horrible Saturday” on July 13 at York Emporium. Visit www.theyorkemporium.com for details.