Cover image for Shale Play: Poems and Photographs from the Fracking Fields By Julia Spicher Kasdorf and Steven Rubin

Shale Play

Poems and Photographs from the Fracking Fields

Julia Spicher Kasdorf, and Steven Rubin

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$24.95 | Hardcover Edition
ISBN: 978-0-271-08093-2

144 pages
10" × 9"
74 color illustrations
2018

Keystone Books

Shale Play

Poems and Photographs from the Fracking Fields

Julia Spicher Kasdorf, and Steven Rubin

“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.”

 

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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.

“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.”
“Rarely have I read a work that so strongly, profoundly, and empathically characterizes the history of a region through those who have labored hardest to make a decent life in a beautiful yet ravaged land. These polyvocal poems are rooted in a documentary sensibility but lift into higher registers of aesthetic experience, and along with the arresting photographs, they juxtapose the beautiful and the ugly, the natural and the industrial, the tracks of labor on the land and in the faces of the residents.”
“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.”

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.