Inside the Animal / Shanan Ballam


In stock (can be backordered)

Inside the Animal

The Collected Red Riding Hood Poems 

poems by

Shanan Ballam

ISBN: 978-1-59948-736-6, ~72 pages, $14 (+ shipping)

Release Date:  May 28, 2019


Shanan Ballam is a Senior Lecturer at Utah State University where she teaches creative writing and composition and was named the 2014 Lecturer of the Year for the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. She is the author of the poetry chapbook The Red Riding Hood Papers (Finishing Line 2010) and the full-length poetry collection Pretty Marrow (Negative Capability 2013). In 2013, she was appointed to the Utah Arts Council’s Board of Directors where she served a four-year term. Shanan enjoys teaching writing workshops and taught the 2018 Poetry in the Park Workshop in Zion National Park.

Reading Shanan Ballam’s Red Riding Hood poems is very much like a sip of morning’s first cup of handground strong black coffee: there is the craving, heat, aroma, the familiar cupgrasp and then the taste of a new day and re-realization of what it means to be awake—all the senses alert, mind focused, the day’s first probing in hand. These are poems that re-welcome you to the reimagined, redrawn world of childhood, poignantly, delightfully. ~David Lee, Apprentice World Class Piddler


“…our story cupped/in the savage/shade between us”— in the hands of a prodigiously gifted poet, a traditional tale—girl, red cloak, grandmother, wolf, bed, basket, mouth–become shifting figures in a dazzling, incandescent kaleidoscope of meanings, “a tangle/of fur and velvet.” In a passionately driven language, an astonishing profusion of gorgeous images and changing perspectives, interiority’s complex drama is given full range: “This time, let us not simplify/ our desires…”  ~Eleanor Wilner


In this expansion of her remarkable chapbook The Red Riding Hood Papers, Shanan Ballam probes further into the psychic depths of the fairy tale through a prism of empathy, erudition, and wonder. The poems are set in an inner landscape, lushly described, charged with allure and menace, terrifyingly beautiful. The characters, wolf included, draw you in with them on their solitary quests for intimacy and renewal. This is a stunning collection. Remember the name: Shanan Ballam. ~William Trowbridge, author of Vanishing Point

Red Riding Hood Opens the Door


There is a house.
Inside the house,
a wolf. Inside the wolf,
an old woman. Inside the old
woman, an empty womb glittering
music: teeth, hair, fists,
bulb of brain blooming intricate.
Inside the wolf inside the woman
there is a deep metal fear
of bodies shattering into
fragments, shimmering
back into syntax.
Meanwhile, the old woman’s daughter
packs a basket, dresses
her daughter in a red cape, directs
her into a green-black forest
where there is no god, only a story,
wild roses always breathing soft warnings.
She reaches the house, opens
the door, a dark mouth opens
and she knows again the dazzling pain
of self in all its forms,
our disastrous needs.
The story is so heavy. Inside
a small house, a wolf weeps.
The womb aches.



Red Riding Hood to Her Mother


Under meek starlight, through darkness, twisting,
with your honeyed voice you led me, Mother—
stunned, the moon’s white eye misting
dimmed skeleton trees, the gushing river—

with your honeyed voice you led me, Mother,
folded me warm in your fingers, the fire
dimmed my skeleton, blood, the gushing river—
I did not know— could love expire?

Creased alive in your fist, ember of fire,
I begged you to spare me, take me back home.
I did not know then that love could expire—
could the heart ossify to bone?

I begged you to spare me, take me back home.
I was warned, Mother, not to follow you.
The heart ossifies. Numb, blind bone.
I was just a little starlight smudging through.

I knew, Mother, not to follow you.
I saw your gritted smile when I found my way back.
I was just a little starlight smudging through
your sky. You thrust me a basket to pack.

I saw your gritted smile when I found my way back.
Stunned, the moon’s white eye misting,
I cried. But you thrust me a basket to pack.
You sent me, meek, into darkness, twisting.



Wolf Wears Red Riding Hood’s Cape


When the story is silent behind
its hard covers, Wolf slips

into the cape, becomes
a mind of clean wind.

His clumsy paws arrange
delicate shawls around

grandmother’s shoulders.
Gently, he combs her thin hair.

A wonderful sadness washes
through him when he wanders

in fields glistening bluebells,
their heads bowed in reverence.

He hears their soft prayers.
For hours he labors with a paintbrush,

watercolors, paints sunsets for grandmother,
orange, purple, gold.

She fastens his pictures high on her walls.
He floats in a cold river,

opens his eyes under water, feels
the pure ecstasy of distortion.

He sleeps next to grandmother.
In the dark she tells him of baby Moses adrift

in his tiny ark.

SKU: 978-1-59948-736-6 Category: Tag: