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BOOKS Yvonne Zipter: Looking at Chicagoan's life, poetry collection
by Melissa Wasserman
2020-08-05

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Writer Yvonne Zipter nurtures nature and other ideas in her new book of poetry Kissing the Long Face of the Greyhound.

Zipter grew up in Milwaukee and lived there until she was 24. She earned a bachelor's degree at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and went on to get a Master of Fine Arts degree from Vermont College.

After leaving Milwaukee, Zipter spent years in California and New York, before settling down in Chicago in 1981.

Zipter and Kathy Forde met in the late '80s and got married in 2014. Through the years together they have enjoyed musical theater, movies and live music at Ravinia, spending time with their niece and nephew and caring for pet greyhounds—a breed they love.

When she first got to Chicago, she worked as a technical writer at Bell Labs. Moving on to something she considered more enjoyable, she started working for University of Chicago Press, first as an advertising copywriter for the journals division and then as a manuscript editor. Taking a four year hiatus from the press, she studied massage and became a massage therapist.

Zipter has written across many genres over the years. Along with the nationally syndicated column, Inside Out, which ran from 1983 to 1993, she wrote book reviews, feature articles and did celebrity interviews and for Windy City Times. "I come from a very working class family," Zipter said. "I'm actually the first woman in my extended family to graduate from college, so it never occurred to me that I could be a writer, but I've been reading since like 4 or 5-years-old. I've been a book addict and I started in high school writing really bad poetry, but I loved it and I loved reading it and I took one class in creative writing at university of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and learned a lot from that teacher and then just basically taught myself to write poetry by reading a lot of poetry."

She is the author of the nonfiction books Ransacking the Closet and Diamonds Are a Dyke's Best Friend.

Zipter is a longtime Chicago Cubs fan and played softball as a young girl. She took a break through high school and college, but came back to play years later purely for fun.

Her book Diamonds are a Dyke's Best Friend: Reflections, Reminiscences, and Reports from the Field on the Lesbian National Pastime centered on contemporary lesbians and softball. This included the progress of women involved with America's national pastime, as well as the history of women in the sport, highlighting the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League ( AAGPBL ).

"I was just fascinated that there had been professional baseball and no one even knew about it," Zipter said, adding she has a long intertwined history with the AAGPBL. "They had sort of been lost to history and then people started writing about them and making documentaries. 'A League of Their Own' was based on them. I went to a couple of their reunions and watched them in their 70s playing baseball and I just kept thinking these women are amazing."

It was this topic that also led to Zipter's appearance in the Netflix original documentary A Secret Love.

She has also written poetry collections titled The Patience of Metal ( a Lambda Literary finalist ) and Like Some Bookie God. Zipter expressed poetry is the genre that makes her happiest. She took her poetry beyond book pages with the Poetry Machine. Inspired by the Art-O-Mat vending machine at the Chicago Cultural Center that dispensed a piece of art in exchange for two tokens, this machine pops out Zipter's published poems in a capsule in exchange for 50 cents ( reminiscent of a gumball machine ). The coins accumulated support Arts Alive Chicago, a local nonprofit organization that creates murals and other artistic projects around the city.

Currently, the two existing machines live at ERIS Brewery and Cider House located on Irving Park Road and at Women & Children First. The Poetry Machine has also traveled to schools and other local businesses. Zipter emphasized the feedback from the community has been positive and as a result the machines have generated a sizable donation.

"I feel I express myself the best in that and it's kind of my way of connecting with people," Zipter explained. "It's [the Poetry Machine] just kind of a fun way to get people involved in reading poetry and maybe even writing poetry."

Her newest book—Kissing the Long Face of the Greyhound, released Aug. 3—is a collection of poems about nature, greyhounds and other relationships in her life."

Poetry, I think, is the thing that is closest to my soul," she said.

With a narrative writing style, Zipter described that while her poetry has multiple layers and readers can get different things out of it, it is accessible. It is not just for poetry fanatics.

"I hope that they get a greater appreciation for nature, I hope they see the ways we're all interconnected and I hope it makes people less afraid of reading poetry," Zipter said of her newest poetry collection.

To learn more about Yvonne Zipter and her writing, visit yvonne-zipter.com .


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