Shale Play: Poems and Photographs from the Fracking Fields
In Shale Play, acclaimed poet Julia Spicher Kasdorf and award-winning documentary photographer Steven Rubin explore the small towns, farms, and forests of Appalachian Pennsylvania to gather the stories of these places and the working people who inhabit them.
In the parlance of the oil and gas industry, “shale play” refers to a region exploited for its natural gas by means of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling—transient industrial processes that often occur far from the populations that benefit from them. Amid polarized claims about fracking and pressure to develop these areas around the world, this project gathers evidence from everyday life in the Marcellus Shale Play. Kasdorf and Rubin follow in the footsteps of the documentarians of the 1930s, such as the artists and writers of the Works Progress Administration, taking a deliberate and thoughtful approach to gather the stories of workers on pipelines and well pads, landowners and leaseholders, waitresses, ministers, farmers, retired miners, teachers, and neighbors. The resulting collage of vivid oral and pictorial testimony reveals the natural beauty of rural places as well as the disturbance and spectacle fracking creates.
A passionate work of witness, Shale Play invites the reader to look beyond the easy caricatures of the white working class to create an urgent, authentic representation of a sacrifice zone that fuels America.
About the Author
Julia Spicher Kasdorf grew up in Westmoreland, Pennsylvania. She is Professor of English and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Penn State University.
Steven Rubin is Associate Professor of Art, specializing in photography, at Penn State University.
- Series: Keystone Books
- Hardcover: 144 pages
- Publisher: Penn State University Press; 1 edition (July 20, 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780271080932
- ISBN-13: 978-0271080932
- ASIN: 0271080930
- Product Dimensions: 10 x 9 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
Buy Shale Play: Poems and Photographs from the Fracking Fields here:
“A collage of voices, drawing in the testimonies of activists, residents, industry lawyers, and workers. Kasdorf explores the nuances and tensions of her home state without allowing any one perspective to dominate.”
—Rosa Furneaux, Mother Jones
“The long sleep of the Appalachians has been dramatically interrupted by the sudden discovery of the Marcellus Shale. This book helps us see and understand what that has meant for the region. It’s a classic tale, with echoes of the region’s past—and deep implications for the planet’s future.”
—Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature
—Alison Hawthorne Deming, author of Stairway to Heaven: Poems
“For nearly fifty years, my wife and I have lived in Armstrong County, Pennsylvania, a beautiful place but one with few well-paying jobs. Combine that scarcity of jobs with fracking and a gerrymandered state legislature in the pocket of extractive industries (Pennsylvania, for example, has been the only state without an extraction tax for gas). That’s the situation described by Kasdorf and Rubin in Shale Play, a powerful book about not just central Pennsylvania but much of Appalachia.”
—Ed Ochester, editor of the Pitt Poetry Series
“Shale Play” maps the forgotten rural or small-town sites that the fracking industry wants to keep secret from Pennsylvanians. The secrecy maintains the industry’s strength. It hides the harm to persons and environments that is demanded by imperious profit-taking. But what the profits make inaudible and invisible is forcibly countered by Julia Spicher Kasdorf’s words and Steven Rubin’s photographs. To be sure, the authors solicit the pros as well as the cons of the fracking story. Kasdorf interviews representatives of both sides; and, because she is a poet, she intensifies all her witnesses’ views by rendering them in subtle verse. But the result of her artful even-handedness, and of Rubin’s visual documentation, is an unequivocal register of fracking’s damaging results. The results of course aren’t important only to Pennsylvanians. This noble book about “the economy” is more important than all the vaunting tweets we get from “government.”