English professor and poet has long been moved by Russia

Olga Bonfiglio
College of Arts and Sciences staff writer

Judith Rypma

Judith Rypma with her publications

Judith Rypma, master faculty specialist in English and one of the organizers of the Russian Festival, said putting on the event this year was essential.

“As the political relationship between the U.S. and Russia sadly continues to deteriorate, it is more important than ever that we hold events that foster better understanding between our peoples and our cultures.”

Rypma presented a multimedia reading from her collection of poems, Looking for the Amber Room (FutureCycle Press, 2015).

“It’s a tale of stolen art, but it’s also a legend that has enthralled and continues to frustrate armies of treasure hunters who at this very moment are scouring four countries in search of it,” said Rypma.

The Amber Room is a world famous chamber decorated in amber panels backed with gold leaf and mirrors located in the Catherine Palace of Tsarskoye Selo near St. Petersburg. Originally constructed in 1701 in the Berlin City Palace, Prussian King Frederick William I gave it to his ally, Peter the Great of the Russian Empire in 1716. The Amber Room covered more than 590 square feet and contained over 6 tons of amber. It was considered the “Eighth Wonder of the World.” During World War II, the Nazis removed the room, and it has never been found. In 2003, it was recreated in the Catherine Palace.

Rypma also presented information about the new study abroad program in Russia that is sponsored by the Department of English and the Haenicke Institute for Global Education at WMU. Scheduled for the first half of the 2016 summer session, students will study literature in translation at Leningrad State University in Pushkin, as well as in St. Petersburg.

Rypma has been involved with the festival for the past 18 years. Before that she participated in the Kalamazoo-Pushkin sister city program when she began to bring medical supplies to Russia in 1995.

Rypma has had an affinity for Russia since high school when she read Nicholas and Alexandra by Robert K. Massie (1969). She has visited the country 18 times after she earned a bachelor’s degree in Russian studies at Grand Valley State University.

“I fell in love with the culture, would visit the country and return and write about it,” said Rypma, who is a former travel writer for national magazines, hotel chains, tour companies and airlines. During a two-year appointment at Kalamazoo Valley Community College, she used to write plays based on Russian fairy tales and have her students perform them.

Rypma has taught in the Department of English since 1992 where she also teaches Russian literature in translation. She is currently on sabbatical researching her next book.

Rypma, a poet, specializes in poems of place on Russia. Over 150 of her poems have appeared in literary journals, most recently in Concho River Review, Green Hills Literary Lantern, River Oak Review, Paterson Literary Review, and Eclipse. She has also published five chapbooks, including Sewing Lessons (FutureCycle Press).