Aug 13, 2014

Kay Ryan's "Surfaces" and Crime in Southeast Michigan

Key West, Florida

Wooster, Ohio

Surfaces by Kay Ryan : The Poetry Foundation

Once again I like a Kay Ryan poem, “Surfaces.” The succinctness, subtlety of imagery, and the surprising yet reasonable associations of thought and sound are vintage Kay Ryan, a recent U.S. poet laureate.

Can you offer, from your own experience or meditation, an example of a discrepancy, or merely an intriguing relationship, between a surface and what’s within or beneath it?

I think Kay Ryan's “Surfaces” has something to do with the headlines and notes below, which come from a single issue (July 26, 2014) of The Oakland Press of Pontiac, Michigan. But maybe I’m forcing the comparison. If so, will you tell me?

Metamora Township: Dogs that killed man [jogging] involved in past attack, says Oxford woman.      In May 2012, there was a report of a dog bite where the animal returned to the same property . . . . .  And in November 2013, a man was taken to a hospital after being bitten by a dog that returned to the address.

Murdered Armada teen identified: Police seek clues to death of April Milsap, 14, who was walking her dog on a recreational trail near Armada. 

Sheriff: Man stabbed in back by girlfriend [33-year-old Pontiac woman],  causing a collapsed lung.

[Pontiac] Man stable after being shot three times.

No injuries reported in [Pontiac] apartment shooting.

Bond revoked for Southfield woman convicted of shooting boyfriend over sexual performance.           
            Sadie Bell, 58 . . .  shot her longtime lover, Edward Lee, after he produced what she believed to be an inadequate amount of ejaculate during a sexual encounter.
            She accused Lee of cheating on her.
            Bell and Lee had been having an affair for 15 years . . . .

Bison skull, $200, Berkeley Springs, WV

Anonymous Surfaces

Here’s an ounce of context for those news items (sources:  and Wikipedia).

Pontiac is a blue-collar city of 60,000 (down from 85,000 in 1970). The estimated median household income of $27,818, down from $31,000 in 2000.  

Armada is a village of about 1,700 (up 10% since 2000) at the southern end of Michigan’s agricultural “thumb” area. Its median household income is about $64,120.

Southfield is a suburb on Detroit’s northwest boundary. Population 72,000 in 2012, down 7.4% since 2000. Estimated median household income:  $45,494, down from $51,802 in 2000.

Lakeville, Michigan

Surfaces by Kay Ryan : The Poetry Foundation


RuneE said...

"Surfaces" is disambiguate and can be defined in many ways: Here is my favourite from Wikipedia:

Surface science is the study of physical and chemical phenomena that occur at the interface of two phases, including solid–liquid interfaces, solid–gas interfaces, solid–vacuum interfaces, and liquid-gas interfaces.

After reading the poem and the headlines, the closest I can come to a relation is the fate of Edward Lee. He has all my sympathy.

(I have of course missed something very important ...)

Banjo52 said...

Rune, Up with interfacing! Bravo ant thanks. As for Edward, I do believe that's the saddest, strangest story I've ever heard.

Ken Mac said...

When I was a kid Southfield was a good neighborhood. Now low sperm count has sent them to the dogs.

Ken Mac said...

When I was growing up in Milford, Michigan, Southfield was a really nice place. Back then, Michigan was generally an amazing place full of good vibes and prosperity.

Banjo52 said...

Ken, ha! Maybe the dogs have low sperm count too?

I thought you were from Detroit, which I understand was fairly grand in its day. Milford is still a very nice looking town--prosperous, I think--and next door to 7,000-acre Kensington Metropark, a fine recreational area, plenty of woods and large-ish water. Did it exist in your Michigan years?

To me, Southfield, Troy, Livonia, and Warren are just big areas rather than actual towns. Know what I mean?
Where is downtown Warren?

Stickup Artist said...

This is probably my least favorite poem I've read on your blog. Which on reflection is odd, because when I think about it, photography is an art that concerns itself the most with surfaces; though I try mightily to transcend that, often failing miserably. Falling prey to the lure of a glossy surface, technical expertise and mimicry. Linking that to crime; how many crimes are committed (on ourselves as well as on others) because we fall for the slick surfaces of the manipulated, staged glossy photos of ad campaigns, mistaking them for reality, and how unreachable and false that is.

Julie Brown said...

Rune brought interesting info to the discussion-surface science.

Anonymous said...

I so liked this poem for a while, and yes, partly because it had rhymes (I take rhymes most seriously and appreciatively), until the last line. Up until this point, it gave depth to surfaces. But that last line was such an ordinary observation.

Pasadena Adjacent said...

when you push around mud and pixels for a living - your life is about surfaces

Lovers' Lane