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Yvonne Zipter: “A Canine Metaphysics”

August 1st, 2007 · 3 Comments · Books, Chicago, Culture, Lit, Nature, News, Pets, Poetry, Spirituality

Like Some Bookie GodAs a sort of spiritual antidote to the horrible Michael Vicks dogfighting story, here’s a lovely poem by Chicago poet Yvonne Zipter (shared here with her permission). It’s from Yvonne’s most recent chapbook, Like Some Bookie God, which came out last year.

A Canine Metaphysics

In his meditative moments —
nose to the air or head resting
on a chew toy — he has, no doubt,
considered sound
and whether it is a sound — a knucklebone, say,
tumbling to the floor tile — if no one
is there to hear. Now,
this morning in April, he wants to run
but ponders, it seems,
how he will know
he’s a greyhound
if I’m not there to see him.
I step out of the house and into my love
of his rubberbandedness.
He is both sling
and shot. A marvel.
The way he inscribes
a loopy L around pergola,
over boardwalks, and behind garage, a dervish
of essentiality, tracing
and retracing this lone letter,
his broad paws like beaters
on the bass drum of lawn.
And each time all his feet
together leave the ground
and he is flying like Pegasus
or a blown kiss, joy climbs my spine
as at the carnival strength test.
And someone somewhere, sitting
in the lotus position, hears the ding.

[space for applause]

As you might guess, Like Some Bookie God is a themed chapbook of poems about life with Zipter’s greyhound companions.

And as I’ve said before, I’ve long thought Yvonne is one of the very best poets in Chicago, and her collection The Patience of Metal from 1990 would be a strong contender for my all-time favorite book of poems by a poet I know personally.

If you read the local LGBT weeklies, you might also know Yvonne as a long-running columnist for The Windy City Times (and before that, Outlines). When I first moved here in the late 80s, Yvonne’s column was a staple of the Chicago queer press. I particularly remember one that carried the headline, “Who’s That Cranky Old Dyke? Why, It’s Me!” (I think it was about growing older.) For some reason that particular headline so amused my former college roommate Ken and myself that it became one of our catchphrases for a while, even though neither of us were dykes, old, or particularly cranky at that phase of our lives.

Here’s a very nice review of Like Some Bookie God from the aforementioned Windy City Times, written by Yasmin Nair. Key quote:

Yvonne Zipter is in love with her greyhounds, and Like Some Bookie God is an unashamed series of paeans to the dogs who rule her life. I’ll confess I expected a set of greeting card clichés about lovable pets, but found instead a set of masterfully written poems … What makes them worthy of returning to is the slow revelation of the relationship between Zipter and the greyhounds who rule her home and life. These dogs aren’t her pets; they are ethereal and lovely creatures whose gentleness and friendliness belie a certain reserve. Zipter is not their master but their humble devotee, fascinated by their bodies which seem to be in flight even as they stand still, enthralled by their ability to glide through the world without disturbing the air around them. They are spectral creatures that defy categorization. The greatest charm of Zipter’s work is that she never loses her sense of humor, even as she contemplates them most seriously. “In the Naming” has her wondering how to classify one of them: ““Dog” is too dense a word for him…He is,/ in a word, ethereal. Except/ for the click of his nails/ on the floor and the earthy way/ he licks himself. Maybe “dog”/ will do after all.”

Like Some Bookie God and The Patience of Metal are both available from Women and Children First bookstore.

They aren’t listed on the store’s Web site, due to the complexities of small book distribution, but I just spoke with Chelsea at Women and Children First, and she says that anyone interested in ordering the books can call the store at 773-769-9299, or email them at wcfbooks {at symbol} aol.com for instructions on how to order.

And of course if you’re local, you can always just stop by the store.

Yvonne Zipter’s Web site: www.yvonnezipter.com


3 Comments so far ↓

  • Aaron

    Ken wasn’t a dyke??! But what about that haircut? :-)

  • Ocelopotamus

    Come to think of it, he sure did love that first Phranc album.

    (Actually, we both did.)

  • Aaron

    Well, I can’t talk much–I think I had a mullet at the end of my first year at BU (the back had grown out and I was too lazy to get it cut)…and I was the first person to buy Melissa Etheridge’s first album. I remember singing “Bring Me Some Water” once, and Ron Sathoff (remember him?) looked at me like I was nuts.

    Which I was, of course…