Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2014

Degree Name

MA (Master of Arts)

Degree In


First Advisor

Hill, Michael

First Committee Member

Simmons, Tom

Second Committee Member

Nazareth, Peter


In the lead up to the 2011 official U.S. State Department decision on the proposed Keystone XL pipeline--running from the Alberta, Canada Tar Sands to the Gulf of Mexico--the Department held nine public meetings in Fall 2011 in the six U.S. states through which the proposed Keystone XL pipeline project would pass (the Department rejected the proposal; however, a new proposal is under consideration as of this writing). The transcripts of these public meetings are publicly accessible.

Understanding the pipeline as a project of trans-national trade and the global circulation of petrochemicals--including global emissions of carbon dioxide--this paper hones in on one region within one U.S. state: the Nebraskan Sandhills, a cattle ranching region of grass-stabilized sand dunes and inter-dunal valleys stretching 20,000-square miles across the north-central part of the state, under which rests a vast hydrological network, including the largest freshwater aquifer in the world - the Ogallala Aquifer.

This essay argues that we can read the Public Comments as a form of poetic expression, paying attention to the ways the State Department transcription process formatted the oral testimonies into an "official" and sanctioned public document -- instituting line-breaks and other syntactical procedures. Using the tools of literary-critical analysis, this paper makes a case that we can read the Comments as a form of documentary poetry - in the tradition of such American modernist poets as Charles Reznikoff, Muriel Rukeyser, and George Oppen - that explore ecological questions while experimenting with lyric structures. The Comments reveal competing environmental stakeholders' stances - on such topics as Prairie systems ecology and the neoliberal economics of private-public capital markets. In doing so, they subsequently express citizens' various understandings of themselves in relation to landscape, ecology, technology, and geo-politics.


Eco-criticism, Keystone XL Pipeline, Literary studies, Ogallala aquifer, Poetry/Poetics, Sandhills (Nebraska)


iii, 53 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 51-53).


Copyright 2014 Eric M. Siegel