WMU News

Poetry collection inspired by author's worldwide travels

Nov. 23, 2004

KALAMAZOO--A background in travel journalism and a love of poetry came together to generate Western Michigan University English instructor Judith Rypma's first published collection of poems in her chapbook "Holy Rocks."

The poems follow her around the world in travels to Russia, the Amazon, China, Europe and the Middle East. "When I entered academia, I returned to poetry with almost a vengeance," says Rypma. "Most poets find themselves returning again and again to the experiences that formed them, and for me that included traveling throughout the world."

A travel journalist for 10 years, Rypma filled numerous notebooks with thoughts during her travels while she wrote articles for the Chicago Tribune, the New York Daily News, and the Los Angeles Times. "Ironically I started doing travel pieces while struggling to get fiction and poetry published," says Rypma. "Writing about places that so many of my predecessors had tried to describe seemed overwhelming at first, as it forced me to hone in on the smallest details, then 'cut the fat.'"

In a review of the book, poet Nancy Eimers, author of "No Moon" and "Destroying Angel," describes Rypma's attention to detail. "She is interested in things that can't be photographed: waves in motion, history, fame, the stillness of the moment experienced far from home."

Rypma credits her experience as a journalist in helping her poetry, specifically in the editing process. "One of my favorite poems is 'Beneath St. Michan's, Dublin,'" says Rypma. "That poem started out as six pages long, way to unwieldy, even for a narrative poem. It took me countless revisions to get it under three pages. A good travel piece should be tight, imaginative and well-crafted. A good poem is no different," says Rypma.

Her title poem "Holy Rocks" came from researching comparative mythology, a topic that is also part of the curriculum in the classes she teaches at the University. But Rypma also realized that the holy rocks of the Middle East are also symbolic in her journey as a writer.

"Over 20 years ago I wrote my very first travel article about Jerusalem's Old City," says Rypma. "Now, my very first collection of poems, so many years later centers around that exact same place. Perhaps there is something 'holy' about coming full circle that way."

Rypma earned her master's degree in English from WMU and has served as an instructor in the Department of English since 1993.

"Holy Rocks" (ISBN 1-932755-14-4) is published by Finishing Line Press, and is part of the publishing company's critically acclaimed Chapbook Series, availableon the Web at <hometown.aol.com/finishingbooks/>.

Media contact: Thom Myers, 269 387-8400, thom.myers@wmich.edu

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