By Kelly Parrett
Earlier this year, author Yvonne Zipter (ΦΒΚ, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee) released a new collection of poetry entitled Kissing the Long Face of the Greyhound (Terrapin Books, 2020). A retired manuscript editor for the University of Chicago Press, Zipter is no stranger to writing. She has previously published poetry collections The Patience of Metal (Hutchinson House, 1990)and Like Some Bookie God (Pudding House Publications, 2007), along with two nonfiction books: Diamonds are a Dyke’s Best Friend (Firebrand Books, 1989) and Ransacking the Closet (Spinsters Ink, 1995).
Zipter’s poems are largely inspired by the world around her. “My late mother-in-law was famous for telling everyone to ‘pay attention,’” said Zipter. “That paying attention—looking closely at small moments of kindness, at the way people and animals relate to the world and to each other—often fills me with awe. And it’s that sense of awe for the world around us and the beings in it that I try to convey in my poetry.”
Since 1999, Zipter and her long-time partner Kathy Forde have adopted five rescued racing greyhounds. The title of the collection, and the poem of the same name, are a reference to one of Zipter’s beloved pets. The relationships between people, animals, and the world are a major focus in Kissing the Long Face of the Greyhound.
Throughout the collection, Zipter places poems about the natural world alongside poems about human nature. The proximity of these poems is no accident: “As climate change has brought into sharp relief, humans and nature are interdependent,” said Zipter. “The poems in this book are, I hope, an illustration of the ways in which this is true.”
Within Kissing the Long Face of the Greyhound, Zipter skillfully grounds readers in the physical world. Through her imagery-filled depictions of fruit, foliage, insects, and animals, she helps connect readers to nature.
From nature, to love, to powerful human emotions, Zipter’s poems find the beauty in everything. “Even things we don’t necessarily usually see as positives, such as loss, grief, occasions of nature at its harshest, and so on, often have a certain beauty or grace about them,” said Zipter. “Those instances fill me with a sense of wonder that I want to share with others.”
Zipter credits her liberal arts education for her success as an author and an editor. “My liberal arts education taught me to read, think, and write critically,” said Zipter. “It gave me knowledge of a world larger than my own, fueled my curiosity, deepened my empathy for those unlike myself, presented me the tools to continue to learn and grow. In short, I doubt I would be the writer I am today were it not for my liberal arts education.”
As a Phi Beta Kappa member since 1976, Zipter is proud of her membership. “Given that I was the first woman in my entire extended working-class family to graduate from college, to be able to claim membership in this prestigious society for academic excellence was especially meaningful to me,” said Zipter. “ΦBK was my reward for having worked hard to excel and to learn as much as possible.”
As she looks ahead, Zipter is excited about her next work. A small LGBTQ press, Rattling Good Yarns, will be publishing her Russian historical novel Infraction next year.
Kelly Parrett earned her bachelor’s degree in English literature from SUNY Geneseo, where she was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa in May 2020. SUNY Geneseo is home to the Alpha Delta of New York chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.