“F Word”: Julia Kasdorf’s poetry from the Marcellus Shale
This poem, “F Word,” is Julia Spicher Kasdorf’s second post for our series on the Penn State Reads book, Russell Gold’s The Boom: How Fracking Ignited the American Energy Revolution and Changed the World. Kasdorf is an award-winning poet and a Professor of English at Penn State since 2001. You can read her poem, “A Mother on the West Virginia Border Considers the Public Health” as well. We will post two more of her poems in the coming weeks.
A few questions for discussion follow the poem.
The industry spelling of fracking is actually fracing.
Without the K, it looks less violent:
water pressure creates fractures that allow
oil and gas to escape—as if they were
trapped—under tight regulatory control.
Blame the fracktivists, fracademics. A bumper
sticker claims, I’m surrounded by gasholes.
Frack her ‘til she blows, says a tee shirt stretched
on a roughneck’s chest at the Williamsport Wegman’s.
Frackville, PA, named for Daniel Frack, from vrack,
Middle Low German: greedy, stingy, damaged, useless.
Are you going to say what the word suggests,
a student timidly asks, to women, I mean?
Fracket, a sophomore explains, is a hoodie worn
over your spaghetti strap dress to a frat house,
an old jacket that won’t matter if it gets stolen
or left behind on a flagstone patio, splattered
with someone’s else’s vomit.
Read this poem out loud. Kasdorf draws attention to the letter “K.” How does her use of “K” and its sound influence the imagery in the poem and the feelings? What about other sounds including “st” and “sp,” and “fra?”
How does this poem and “A Mother on the West Virginia Border Considers the Public Health” persuade you? What is the difference between reading an essay or a scientific report, the final chapter of The Boom, particularly page 308, where Gold writes about public health impacts? What about Jenny Lisak’s guest blog post, “‘What good is all our education’ if we keep fracking?”
How does this poem’s use of gendered and sexual language affect how you see fracking?
This poem and “A Mother on the West Virginia Border” both refer to illness caused by foreign substances–alcohol and possible byproducts of fracking. What is the difference between fracking-induced illness and alcohol-induced illness?