Author: Ryan Griffis

You Can’t Draw Permanent Lines on the Ground in a Floodplain

Iron the common element of earth in rocks and freightersSault Sainte Marie—big boats coal-black and iron-ore-red topped with what white castlework  The waters working together internationally Gulls playing both sides –Lorine Niedecker From the poem “Lake Superior,” 1967 For the last twelve years, my professional and personal life has been split between the Midwest/Great Lakes metropolis of Chicago and Champaign-Urbana in the center of the state. The train I take between these two homes—on a rail line celebrated in folk-singer Steve Goodman’s “City of New Orleans”—passes through terrain covered by large, uniform fields of corn and soybeans. Cylindrical grain storage bins periodically rise out of the flat horizon like rockets that got stuck in a perpetual countdown, never to blast off. There are many readymade images that someone like me projects onto these scenes. One of the strongest being the pastoral image of productive family farmers, feeding America with sweat and basic technology; a Grant Wood painting, in 3D living color. After a couple of years of inhabiting and moving through this territory, the surface of …