about bj omanson


After dropping out of high school at 17, Omanson worked in Illinois, Colorado and Minnesota as a barrel plater, drill press operator, autoworker, tree trimmer, truck driver, taxi driver, bus driver, gardener, day laborer, fruit picker, groundskeeper, nurseryman, librarian, barn restorer, farmhand, gravedigger, garbageman, custodian, nurse's aide (on a locked ward for the criminally insane), and teamster (driving draft horses).

At 23, he lived for a year in the wilderness in a lean-to, along the Calawah and Hoh rivers on the Olympic Peninsula on the Washington coast, working on logging crews, in shingle mills, and as an independent cedar-bolt cutter.

Though never graduating from high school, Omanson began taking college courses on a part-time basis in 1968, eventually earning a BA in English literature, with a minor in philosophy, from Rockford College in 1990.

Currently, Omanson is the owner of Monongahela Books, an online bookstore specializing in American culture and history. He also works as an historical interpreter at Pricketts Fort, a living history facility near Fairmont, West Virginia depicting everyday life on the Virginia frontier, ca. 1770-1800. His duties include overseeing a small, 18th-century frontier farm, militia drill, musketry, wood-cutting, rough carpentry & sheep-shearing.

Omanson's poems and literary criticism have appeared in The Stark County News, The Hudson Review, The Sewanee Review, Shenandoah, Verse, Sparrow: A Yearbook of the Sonnet, Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture, The Pennsylvania Review, Best American Poetry and the Academy of American Poets anthology, New Voices, 1989-1998. Twenty-one of Omanson's Stark County poems were featured in the book Stark County, Illinois: History and Families, published by the Stark County Genealogical Society and Acclaim Press in 2012.

Omanson annotated and wrote the section introductions for a book of World War I poetry This Man's Army: A War in Fifty-odd Sonnets by John Allan Wyeth, a staff officer with the 33rd Division, AEF. Completely unknown when Omanson rediscovered him in the early '90s, Wyeth is now widely recognized as the most significant American poet of WWI. His 1928 collection of war sonnets was reissued in 2008 by the University of South Carolina Press as part of the Joseph Bruccoli Great War Series, with critical introduction by Dana Gioia.

Omanson also annotated and wrote the chapter introductions for the memoir of a volunteer soldier in the First World War: At Belleau Wood with Rifle and Sketchpad: Memoir of a United States Marine in World War I, by Louis C. Linn, published by McFarland & Company in 2012.

Recently BJ Omanson self-published a selection of his poems, A River Gray with Rain, spanning thirty years and culled from several different collections.










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