Monongahela Books: an independent bookstore & publishing company

Longbuilding_narrowMonongahela Books is an independent bookstore and publishing company located in Morgantown, West Virginia.  According to local legend, it was originally situated in a 19th-century red-brick building overlooking the Monongahela River in an old wharfside district of town that vanished a good many years ago. Now nothing remains but a heap of old bricks overgrown with grasses and poison ivy. Yet on certain nights, when the mists of time are rolling in off the river, and the moon and planets are aligned just so, it is still possible to distinguish the old establishment emerging from the gloom, with a ghostly patron or two strolling in through the doorway in search of who knows what obscure, forgotten title, years out of print.

For those whose patience is not unlimited and who would rather not wait for some random slippage in the space-time continuum to browse among our books, be assured that we may also be found among the sunny upland meadows of the World Wide Web, at every hour of the day and night, at

We specialize in books of American history and culture: military history, local history and regionalist literature. Our in-house publications include books on the 18th century frontier, the Civil War, the First World War and the Great Depression, while our literary offerings include titles by Jared Carter, Dana Gioia, BJ Omanson, and the first book-length study of the recently rediscovered poet of the First World War, John Allan Wyeth.

In addition to our own publishing line, we carry an extensive selection of used and new titles on all aspects of American history and culture, in our Used Book Annex.


“The Old Hotel at the End of Night” — a new booklet by BJ Omanson

oldhotelattheendofnightThe 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.





Published in: on January 3, 2021 at 9:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

Jared Carter’s “The Land Itself” receives its second review

thelanditself_cover7_reduced“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.

Published in: on January 3, 2021 at 8:55 pm  Leave a Comment  

A poem from BJ 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.

Additional information, including Omanson’s observations on the long tradition of poetry in American newspapers, can be read on his blog, A Bivouac on the Slope of Parnassus.

Published in: on January 3, 2021 at 2:53 pm  Leave a Comment  

Two more poems from BJ 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.

Both poems can be read on BJ Omanson’s poetry blog, A Bivouac on the Slope of Parnassus..

Published in: on January 3, 2021 at 1:58 am  Leave a Comment  

New review of Jared Carter’s “The Land Itself”

TheLandItself_cover7_reducedA 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.

Published in: on April 30, 2020 at 3:11 pm  Leave a Comment  

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

IllinoisHeritage_2poemsTwo 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.

Both poems can be read on BJ Omanson’s poetry blog, A Bivouac on the Slope of Parnassus.

A poem from Jared Carter’s “The Land Itself” selected for inclusion in US Poet Laureate Ted Kooser’s newspaper column: “American Life in Poetry”

TheLandItself_cover7_reducedA 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:

Published in: on April 14, 2020 at 3:28 am  Leave a Comment  

New enlarged edition of ‘Stark County Poems’ released


Consisting of over fifty poems, from short lyrics in a variety of forms to lengthy blank verse and free verse narratives, “Stark County Poems” portrays the history of a small rural county in central Illinois, along the upper Spoon River valley.

Chronologically arranged, and incorporating letters, newspaper articles, obituaries, family stories, early county histories and diaries, the poems cover a century of the county’s history, from the 1830s through the 1930s.

Map, illustrations. 59 poems. 225 pages.

BJ Omanson was raised in the Spoon River valley of Stark County, Illinois, where both sides of his family have lived and farmed since the mid-19th century.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


In the autumn of 1893,
      Alpheus Wheeler Appenheimer
and his wife Olive arrived in Stark County,
      Illinois, after having traveled
from their earlier Illinois home in Pike County
      by way of Leoti, Kansas.

They arrived in a covered wagon drawn
      by a pair of worn-out mules conveying
a girl and two boys, implements, blankets,
      a plow and scythe and a chest of clothes,
tinware pots, some kerosene lamps
      and a Mason jar of seeds interred

in early May and exhumed in August,
      still unsprouted— it’d been that dry.
They almost starved on their journey back.
      In Missouri they stopped at a lonely farm
and asked at the house if they might pick a few
      ears of corn to boil for supper.

Go ahead, help yourselves, the woman barked.
      No one else even bothers to ask.
It was hog cholera that had wiped them out
      and sent them westward to make a new start,
and it was drought and the ’93 Panic
      that wiped them out for the second time

and sent them back east to begin again.
      They’d gotten their fill of living in sod—
dirt in your soup and dirt in your bed.
      Their youngest son was born on a night
in January that covered the state
      in three feet of snow as the mercury plunged

to twenty below. He was kept from freezing
      by his mother’s warmth and a crackling stove
that was fed from a pile of unshucked corn.
      At three cents a bushel it made more sense
to burn it than sell it and, anyhow,
      the buffalo chips were long since gone.

In later years, when anyone asked,
      old Alpheus never had much to tell
about losing two farms in two different states.
      In an unguarded moment he said aloud,
You can pray to God. You can vote for Bryan.
      In the end it don’t matter a hill of beans.

Jack Foley’s “Visions & Affiliations” to be featured on radio KPFA, Berkeley

Next Wednesday, September 18, from 3:00 –3:30 p.m. (California time),  the weekly KPFA radio show about poetry, “Cover to Cover with Jack Foley” will air the second in a series of
shows presenting excerpts from Jack’s book, Visions & Affiliations: California Poetry from 1940 to 2005. 

In Jack Foley’s Unmanageable Masterpiece
(Monongahela Books, 2019), Dana Gioia writes: 

“In 2011 a tiny press in Berkeley published Visions & Affiliations, an eccentric 1300-page chronology of post-war California literature in two massive paperbound folio volumes. 

“With no commercial distribution or publicity, the book sold about two hundred copies and soon vanished from sight—but not from the memory of the small audience that read it. Some of them considered the elaborate time-line the first adequate account of California’s complex and contradictory literary life. 

“Others recognized Foley’s radical innovation in changing how literary history could be written. A few even considered these strange and sprawling yet compulsively readable tomes an oddball masterpiece.”

The show will be broadcast at FM 94.1, Berkeley, California, and will also be available at the KPFA website.

“Jack Foley’s Unmanageable Masterpiece” to be featured on KPFA radio, Berkeley, California

FoleyCover8_reducedThis Wednesday, August 28, from 3:00 –3:30 p.m. (California time),  the weekly KPFA radio show about poetry, “COVER TO COVER with Jack Foley” (at KPFA 94.1 FM — available at the KPFA website both live and in the Archive) will feature  Jack Foley’s Unmanageable Masterpiece, the new book published by Monongahela Books and edited by Dana Gioia and Peter Whitfield.

The book deals with an earlier book that Jack published with Pantograph Press in 2011: Visions & Affiliations: California Poetry from 1940 to 2005.

You can listen to a recording of this show at the KPFA website.

Jack has also just created a blog dealing exclusively with Visions & Affiliations, including both excerpts of critics’ remarks, and generous offerings from the book itself.

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