Shanan Ballam

Shanan Ballam is a poet who teaches at Utah State University and is currently poet laureate of the city of Logan. Shanan was born in Ogden, Utah and currently resides in Logan, Utah with her husband, the poet Brock Dethier. She has lived all her life in northern Utah, and while her work grapples with themes of identity, loss, and reimagining the narratives of our lives, it is grounded in Utah experiences, with penstemon and kingfishers popping up in her poems like spring beauties after snow.

Shanan received a BS in Professional/Technical Writing and a MS in The Theory and Practice of Writing from Utah State University before earning an MFA in Poetry Writing from the University of Nebraska, Omaha’s low-residency program where she studied under her mentor, William Trowbridge, former Poet Laureate of Missouri.

Shanan spends her time hiking, skiing, and photographing wildflowers. She is the author of three collections of poetry, including a chapbook The Red Riding Hood Papers (Finishing Line, 2010) and two full-length collections, Pretty Marrow (Negative Capability, 2013) and Inside the Animal: The Collected Red Riding Hood Poems (Main Street Rag Publishing, 2019). Both Red Riding Hood books use the characters and plot of the fairy tale to explore her themes: desire and its sometimes complicitous relationship with fear, as Red Riding Hood and the Wolf are sometimes enemies, sometimes lovers; breaking the limitations of the roles others have set for us, as Grandmother, inside Wolf, twirls and whirls, living out her dream of being a dancer; finding lyrical beauty in spring flowers but also in Wolf’s passions. By using not just the characters but the door to Grandmother’s house and Little Red’s basket as personae, Shanan digs into some of her own life’s traumas, like the physical and mental abuse of her sister and the fear it instilled in the whole family. As she provides new and different plots for the familiar characters to play, she performs the same service for her beloved grandmother whose gardens and needlework appear throughout the book.

Shanan’s previous book of poems, Pretty Marrow (Negative Capability 2013) is more directly personal than Inside the Animal. It established her distinctive voice as a poet—sound and image are always foremost, working together to provide the reader with more than words alone. She pulls no punches in her descriptions of suicidal alcoholism (which claimed her youngest brother’s life two months after the book was published) and of painful family dynamics that are both intensely specific and unfortunately all too common.

A Senior Lecturer with 21 years’ experience at Utah State University, Shanan teaches poetry writing, fiction writing, and composition. She helped found and continues to advise USU’s undergraduate literary magazine, Sink Hollow. From 2013-2017, she served on the Utah Arts Council’s Board of Directors. As poet laureate, Shanan holds free poetry writing workshops for beginners and more advanced poets.

 

Works

Bibliography

  • Inside the Animal: The Collected Red Riding Hood Poems, Main Street Rag Publishing, 2019
  • Pretty Marrow, Negative Capability, 2013
  • The Red Riding Hood Papers, Finishing Line, 2010

Links