Poe Ballantine (born 1955 in Denver, Colorado) is a fiction and nonfiction writer known for his novels and especially his essays, many of which appear in The Sun. His second novel, Decline of the Lawrence Welk Empire, won Foreword Magazine’s Book of the Year. The odd jobs, eccentric characters, boarding houses, buses, and beer that populate Ballantine’s work often draw comparisons to the life and work of Charles Bukowski and Jack Kerouac.
One of Ballantine’s short stories, "The Blue Devils of Blue River Avenue", was included in Best American Short Stories 1998 and one of his essays, "501 Minutes to Christ", appeared in Best American Essays 2006. His essay "Free Rent at the Totalitarian Hotel" (originally published in The Sun) opened Best American Essays 2013. Ballantine's essays and short stories have also appeared in the Coal City Review, Kenyon Review, and Atlantic Monthly. He has guest blogged for PowellsBooks.Blog and Marion Roach Smith's "Writing Lessons."
In 2013 Hawthorne Books & Literary Arts published Ballantine's memoir, Love & Terror on the Howling Plains of Nowhere with an introduction by Cheryl Strayed. Praised by Bruce Jacobs in Shelf Awareness as a "funny memoir and 'true crime' mashup by one of the country's best vagabond raconteurs" and by Cheryl Strayed as "his best book ever", the memoir follows Ballantine's interest in the disappearance of a professor from the town of Chadron, Nebraska. When Love & Terror was picked for The Rumpus Book Club, Rumpus publisher Stephen Elliott wrote "everyone is going apeshit. I mean, stark raving mad. People love the hell out of this book. The book was blurbed by our very own Cheryl Strayed, it’s like 12 Monkeys inside the book club right now. Absolute chaos." Love & Terror and the true crime circumstances that surround its creation are also the subject of a documentary of the same name by filmmaker Dave Jannetta.
Poe Ballantine lives in Chadron, Nebraska with his wife Christina and their son Thomas Francisco.
- Things I Like About America (2002) nonfiction/essays
- God Clobbers Us All (2004) fiction
- Decline of the Lawrence Welk Empire (2006) fiction, sequel to God Clobbers Us All
- 501 Minutes to Christ (2007) nonfiction/essays
- Love & Terror on the Howling Plains of Nowhere (2013) nonfiction/memoir
God Clobbers Us All and its sequel Decline of the Lawrence Welk Empire both feature the fictional Edgar Donahoe as he makes his way from Southern California to the Caribbean. Publisher's Weekly noted that "It's impossible not to be charmed by the narrator of Poe Ballantine's comic and sparklingly intelligent God Clobbers Us All."
Ballantine's other works include short stories and creative nonfiction essays, as well as his memoir, Love & Terror on the Howling Plains of Nowhere. Much of his work features themes of American alienation and lives in transit. In Love & Terror these themes, alongside his expressive self-awareness, are expanded as Ballantine sets down roots in Chadron, Nebraska and begins to investigate the disappearance of a local professor.
Nominations and Recognition
- Nominations for the Pushcart Prize and O. Henry Prize.
- His essays have appeared in the Best American Essays series in 2006 and 2013 and in Best American Short Stories in 1998.
- Decline of the Lawrence Welk Empire was Foreword Magazine’s Book of the Year.
- Love & Terror dir. Dave Jannetta, based on Love & Terror on the Howling Plains of Nowhere.
- Ballantine, Poe. "PowellsBooks.Blog". Retrieved 2013-10-28.
- Ballantine, Poe. "How to Explore Self Knowledge Through Memoir". Retrieved 2013-10-28.
- Jacobs, Bruce. "Shelf Awareness". Retrieved 2013-10-28.
- Ballantine, Poe (2013). "Intro" Love & Terror on the Howling Plains of Nowhere. Hawthorne Books & Literary Arts. pp. Introduction. ISBN 9780983477549.
- Hawthorne Books. "Poe Ballantine's Love & Terror on the Howling Plains of Nowhere A Hit for The Rumpus Book Club!". Retrieved 2013-10-30.
- Jannetta, Dave. "Love & Terror the Movie". Retrieved 2013-10-28.
- "Publisher's Weekly". Retrieved 2013-10-30.
- Ballantine, Poe. ""501 Minutes to Christ" Powell's Original Essay Post". Retrieved 2013-10-30.
- Edited by Lauren O'Neal. "Rumpus Book Club Chat with Poe Ballantine". Retrieved 2013-10-30.