November 17, 2023
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Shanan Ballam

Senior Lecturer Shanan Ballam is a prolific writer. She’s recently published several poems as well as an interview, all of which powerfully meditate upon or dovetail with her experiences following a massive ischemic stroke in January 2022.

Three poems have been published in Sugar House Review, paired with a poem by Shanan’s husband and poet, Brock Dethier. Included in the issue is an interview with Shanan and Brock about their experiences with the stroke. Shanan has also published two poems in Kaleidoscope, three in Wishbone Words, and one in Voices de la Luna.

“I had expressive aphasia, which literally means ‘without language.’ The entire right side of my body was initially paralyzed. I have since regained the use of my arm and hand, but I am still struggling to walk without assistance,” reflects Shanan. “I relearned how to write poetry by focusing on what was around me, focusing on the sensory details—sight, smell, sound, taste, and touch—and then incorporating them into my poems. I also used other poets’ works as inspiration. Two of the poems—'if love exists’ and ‘the owls’—were inspired by Rumi’s poems.”

“My advice: Steal language from the writing you admire,” Shanan adds. “T.S. Eliot said “immature poets imitate, mature poets steal.” I stole language from a poem entitled “To go to Lvov” by Adam Zagajewski. Write about your real experiences. Specific details are important.”