Nina Bennett reviews Yvonne Zipter's Kissing the Long Face of the Greyhound
Terrapin Books, 2020
Another striking cover from Terrapin Books graces Yvonne Zipter’s Kissing the Long Face of the Greyhound. Against a solid black background, a single, deep-red tulip covers one eye of a gorgeous greyhound muzzle, almost the way a shy girl would hold a bouquet up for a photo. The cover is graceful in the way of greyhounds, which are a theme in this collection. In Zipter’s bio, she shares that she lives in Chicago with her wife and a long succession of retired racing greyhounds.
The book is divided into four numbered sections, with the title poem appearing in the third.
Zipter’s strong and unique use of analogy is evident in the opening lines:
My dog’s head is the exact shape and size
of a Brooks leather bicycle saddle
On the surface, this may not seem to be a pretty comparison, but think for a moment; a bike saddle is smooth and sleek, a bike races from one place to the next, in the same way a greyhound, especially a retired racing dog, does.
Zipter covers a variety of topics, and is fond of Nature poems, making connections for the reader to beauty and wonder, a refreshing read during these days of staying home, a peaceful juxtaposition to the horrifying news that appears daily.
One of my favorite poems has the title serving as the opening line:
The Turtles are Sunning Themselves,
lined up like dinner plates along a server’s arm
Good poetry makes the reader stop and consider; great poetry sketches a personal memory or visualization, enables that connection with the reader, who recalls hiking in the woods and coming upon a log with a row of turtles, and turns to her photos to recapture that day. Zipter achieves this connection repeatedly.
Her writing is quiet and thoughtful, the carefully chosen words of a seasoned poet, whether describing a scene from a kayaking trip, or talking about people. Consider these lines from "Sleep Work:"
In those earliest of days,
even sleeping was a joining together,
how we’d curl length to length,
organically as whorls on a snail’s shell
There are several poems about the maturation of love, both human and animal, as well as work extolling family members.
Zipter’s strength in metaphor and simile remains strong throughout. She inhabits a world where “Summer squats cool and dry as a toad,” and “the heart is an octopus.” We are indeed lucky that she has chosen to share this world.
This collection urges the reader to go slowly, to appreciate and contemplate, to go back and re-read. With each reading you will discover something new, similar to going for a walk through a meadow you’ve traversed previously. “Kissing Fire” closes with the line “knows a thing or two about how to linger.” Zipter encourages us to do just that.