“SEPTEMBER MELON”: JULIA KASDORF’S POETRY FROM THE MARCELLUS SHALE
This poem, “September Melon,” is Julia Spicher Kasdorf’s final poem for our series supplementing 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 poems, “A Mother on the West Virginia Border Considers the Public Health, ”“F Word” and “Sealed Record” as well. We encourage you to read all four of the poems we have posted.
Additionally, if you live near University Park campus, Kasdorf will be reading some of her poetry at Webster’s Bookstore and Cafe this Thursday October 22nd at 7 pm. Admission is free.
A few questions for discussion follow the poem.
Larger than my head, it rests heavy in one hand
as I lift it to my ear and knock for the thud
that says the center will be red and dense, wet
and sweet, studded with shiny black seeds,
a gift this late in the season. Where we live,
among boulders and trees, thumper trucks gain
uneven purchase, so a rig, driven by one man
traces a grid through the woods, grabs saplings
with a metal claw, holds them until a blade saws
then tosses them aside. An auger drills shotholes
and sets the blast with radio-controlled detonators
thirty feet down. On Sunday morning they blasted
when everyone else was at church, the professor
says, certain the men trespassed on unleased land.
A seventy-year-old woman stands up in a public meeting
to tell how she showed the gas men a map of her farm,
said blast anywhere but here and here. They agreed.
But wouldn’t you know it, they blew up the two
places where she’d buried her husband and horse.
Another landowner begged for a day to move
his bee hives. The gas men refused. What happened,
I asked, imagining the furious hum and spray
from gold-limed boxes when the earth shook.
The man shrugged, that was not the point of his story.
What is the September melon? How is it used poetically?
The poem finishes with: “The man shrugged, that was not the point of his story.” What is the point of his story? What is the point of this poem?
Most versions of sustainability are inherently ethical by calling for intergenerational and intragenerational fairness, community integrity and respect for the environment. Thus far, we have posted Kasdorf’s poetry, a piece by farmer Jenny Lisak, photographs by Penn State students and a piece by Dr. Terry Engelder on green, sustainable and reliable energy. Taken together with The Boom, how do you view shale gas development and fracking as a moral and ethical issue? What in these pieces informs your view? What would you like to explore more?
Reading back through Kasdorf’s poems, what themes, images, lines or stanzas grip you most? Why?