Sunday, March 24, 2024

Now available as an illustrated book: Dana Gioia's "Longfellow in the Aftermath of Modernism"

Dana Gioia's seminal essay, "Longfellow in the Aftermath of Modernism" has just been published as a pocket-size book liberally illustrated with period engravings.

Longfellow in the Aftermath of Modernism

Tuesday, May 9, 2023

Omanson's memoir of a winter alone in the wilderness serialized online at The Milk House

Selections from the first volume of BJ Omanson's memoir, Three Years on the Nowhere Road is currently being serialized online at The Milk House, a collective of rural writing based in Ireland.

Part 1 is introduced by the following paragraph: 

 What follows is a selection from the opening chapters of BJ Omanson’s memoir Three Years on the Nowhere Road in which he recounts the strange and haphazard road that led him to a life of poetry— a life of inadequate means, manual labor, wilderness solitude and— as he was a high-school dropout— nothing whatever to do with writing programs or academia. 

 In November of 1972, married scarcely a year and having lost his job as a tree trimmer with the Rockford Park District in Illinois due to being on the losing side of a labor strike, with winter coming on and no prospect of comparable work before spring, Omanson made a drastic decision. He packed his uncle’s WWII seabag with a change of clothes, a blanket and some books, took five dollars from the household nest egg and announced his intention to hitchhike out to the coast of Washington State, where there was said to be a logging boom in progress and work to be had by anyone who could handle a chainsaw. We pick up his story several days later, on a deserted two-lane road in an Oregon forest, sometime after midnight:

 Continue reading at The Milk House:

Friday, January 6, 2023

A new book of Appalachian poetry by West Virginia poet laureate Marc Harshman

 Every poem in the "Dark Hills of Home" had its birth among the foothills and hollows of the western Alleghenies, between the Ohio and Monongahela rivers in the heart of Appalachia--- where the sun rises late and sets early, and the night is never entirely absent. ~~~~~ Illustrated with period engravings and printed on heavy glossy paper. Approx. 4.5" x 7". Paperback, perfect-bound. 48 pages.

Visit Marc's new PERSONAL BLOG for a continually updated list of future appearances, a wide range of articles about Marc and reviews of his books, a comprehensive list of Marc's publications (both poetry & children's books), a page about previous West Virginia poets laureate, and links to scholarly articles about Appalachian poetry.

Wednesday, December 15, 2021


Volume II of Dan Clendaniel’s magisterial history of the 85th Pennsylvania, Such Hard and Severe Service, is now available.

Volume I ended with the regiment recovering from their exhaustive duties on Morris Island, South Carolina during the siege of Charleston and Fort Sumter in 1863. They had organized in 1861, fought at Seven Pines during the Peninsula Campaign in Virginia and during the Goldsboro Expedition in North Carolina in 1862, and in 1863 had been sent to the South Carolina front. By September of 1863, 177 soldiers had died from battlefield wounds or diseases. An additional 337 men had been dismissed from the regiment, mostly due to medical discharges while a handful transferred to other units.

Also, by late 1863, their commanding officer, Colonel Joshua B. Howell, was convalescing from a severe concussion from a shell explosion. Their lieutenant colonel, Henry A. Purviance, had been killed by friendly fire in the trenches around Battery Wagner on Morris Island. Of the original ten reimental captains, none remained in their position by late 1863, mostly due to medical discharges. Just one, Isaac M. Abraham, who had been promoted to major, remained with the regiment. New leadership was emerging from the lower ranks in each company.

Volume II begins with the regiment enjoying a break from the battlefield beginning in late 1863 and follows the regiment through to the end of the war. Chapters include “Whitemash Island,” “Bermuda Hundred Campaign,” “Diary of Captain Richard Dawson,” “The Exchange Fleet,” “Fort Gregg” and “The Appomattox Campaign.” A final chapter covers post-war reunions. In addition there are thirty pages of appendices.

Sunday, December 5, 2021

*Three Years on the Nowhere Road:* discovering Hanshan in the Olympic Peninsula wilderness

 BJ Omanson's road to becoming a poet began about as far from the classroom as can be imagined. He had dropped out of high school five years earlier and had no intention of returning. He was 22, living alone in a primitive shelter above the Calawah River in the wilds of the Olympic Peninsula and working in a little shake mill outside of Forks, Washington. 

His journey began one winter morning in a stand of old-growth Sitka spruce when a fellow mill-worker and ex-Sgt of Marines named Mitch handed him a sheaf of folded pages, worn at the corners and tearing at the creases.  They were poems that Mitch had copied out by hand and carried in his jacket pocket for months until finally deciding to pass them along. They were Gary Snyder's translations of the Cold Mountain Poems, written by a half-mad old hermit named Hanshan who lived in a cave overlooking the Yellow River in 8th-century China. 

For the rest of the winter, ensconced in his shelter with a small fire for warmth, seven miles from the nearest neighbor, Omanson read and re-read the ancient poems, along with other books of literature, ethnology and mysticism, and wrote his first cycle of poems. ---- 

Volume I of Three Years on the Nowhere Road chronicles that first winter on the Calawah, his hazardous work in the mills and on the steep, logged-over slopes, his encounters with a Sasquatch and other backwoods eccentrics, and his first steps on the arduous, solitary road to becoming a poet.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

*The Old Hotel at the End of Night*, a new narrative poem & chapbook by BJ Omanson

 The latest poem by BJ Omanson, "The Old Hotel at the End of Night," has been issued as a palm-sized booklet by Monongahela Books.  A synopsis of the poem is given on the back cover:

"A man is driving through the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere, in what used to be the Old Republic, the old America, and he breaks down and begins walking--- through a night that never ends, in a nation that is not quite gone."     

" . . . a true American artifact, and a rare example of allegorical vision."        -- Dave Mason, former Poet Laureate of Colorado.


Monday, January 4, 2021

A poem from Omanson’s *Stark County Poems* featured in Ted Kooser’s *American Life in Poetry* column

For the second time this year, a poem from a book published by Monongahela Books has been chosen by former US Poet Laureate Ted Kooser to appear in his weekly column, American Life in Poetry, which appears in newspapers across the United States and in 72 countries around the globe. The poem is "Nowhere to Nowhere" by BJ Omanson, from his book Stark County Poems. The poem will also be archived in the Library of Congress.

The poem, along with Ted Kooser's comments, can be seen on the American Life in Poetry website.

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Carter's *The Land Itself* receives second review

 "The Laureate of Loss," a review of Jared Carter's The Land Itself, by poet & reviewer David Lee Garrison, has just appeared in the online journal Mock Turtle Zine.

Of Carter's book, Garrison writes:   "The black and white photographs within the book and on its cover, taken by the poet himself, have no human figures in them. They have the lonely look of Andrew Wyeth paintings—abandoned houses, a closed-up church, cemetery figurines, an old mill, spirea flowing over a wall and casting shadows. And yet, the poems are about people and their struggles, people and their wanderings across Midwestern landscapes. Jared Carter tells us their stories. 

The poems are as stark, uncluttered, and unassuming as the photographs. The poet does not moralize or generalize or draw abstract conclusions. He lets the people and the land and the structures that remain on it speak for themselves. He draws back a curtain on the past and shows us birds in the rafters of a covered bridge, gas street lamps it was thought would never go out, and a coffin filled with rock salt. Then he offers us a glimpse of the human context of such things. 

What we hear in these poems are primordial echoes of the land and reverberations from little Midwestern towns. What we see and experience are defining moments in lives now mostly forgotten."

The entirety of this review can be read in the current issue of Mock Turtle Zine. Scroll down to the end of the issue.

Two more titles from Omanson's *Stark County Poems* appear in *Illinois Heritage*

Two more poems from BJ Omanson's Stark County Poems-- "The Aging Widow in the Third Pew" and "Populism"  (both situated in the late 19th century in Stark County, Illinois)-- appear in the current issue of Illinois Heritage: a Publication of the Illinois State Historical Society.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

New review of Carter's *The Land Itself*

 A review of Jared Carter's The Land Itself by Michael R. Burch has appeared recently on the online poetry journal The HyperTexts.

Burch refers to Carter as " . . . the poet of the uncanniness of the commonplace . . ."  He writes,

"The Land Itself begins on a Quixotic note, with a dog barking in the distance and “somewhere a windmill turning in the wind.” The first small town we encounter is ironically named Summit. But Summit is long gone, vanished without a trace from its hill. What remains? “Only the land itself and the way it still rose up.” Here we find the book’s title. What is left when we ourselves are gone, or have become mere shades of ourselves? The land itself, a haunting thought."

The entire review may be read here.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Two poems from the new edition of BJ Omanson’s *Stark County Poems* published in *Illinois Heritage*

Two of the new poems from the new enlarged edition of BJ Omanson's Stark County Poems-- "Proverb of the Three Hotels" and "The Boy Who Climbed a Tree"  (both about Abraham Lincoln's 1858 visit to Toulon, in Stark County, Illinois)-- appear in the current issue of Illinois Heritage: a Publication of the Illinois State Historical Society.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

A poem from Jared Carter's *The Land Itself* appears in Ted Kooser's newspaper column, *American Life in Poetry*

 A poem from Jared Carter's The Land Itself has been chosen for inclusion in Ted Kooser's American Life in Poetry project.  The poem is "Changing the Front Porch Light."  

Kooser's project, in partnership with the Library of Congress, was inaugurated while Kooser was serving as Poet Laureate of the United States.  He describes it as follows:  "American Life in Poetry is a free weekly column for newspapers and online publications featuring a poem by a contemporary American poet and a brief introduction to the poem by Ted Kooser.  The sole mission of this project is to promote poetry, and we believe we can add value for newspaper and online readers by doing so. "

Kooser's weekly column appears in newspapers across the United States and in 72 different countries around the world.  All poems which appear in his column are archived in the Library of Congress.

Jared Carter's earlier book, Darkened Rooms of Summer: New and Selected Poems, was the first book in Ted Kooser's Contemporary Poetry series, published by the University of Nebraska Press.

Carter's poem, and Kooser's comments about it, can be seen here: