Praise Song for My Children celebrates twenty-one years of poetry by one of the most significant African poets of this century. Patricia Jabbeh Wesley guides us through the complex and intertwined highs and lows of motherhood and all the roles that it encompasses: parent, woman, wife, sister, friend. Her work is deeply personal, drawing from her own life and surroundings to convey grief, the bleakness of war, humor, deep devotion, and the hope of possibility. These poems lend an international voice to the tales of motherhood, as Wesley speaks both to the African and to the Western experience of motherhood, particularly black motherhood. She pulls from African motifs and proverbs, utilizing the poetics of both the West and Africa to enrich her striking emotional range. Leading us to the depths of mourning and the heights of tender love, she responds to American police brutality, writing “To be a black woman is to be a woman, / ready to mourn,” and remembers a dear friend who is at once “mother and wife and friend and pillar / and warrior woman all in one.”
Wesley writes poetry that moves with her through life, land, and love, seeing with eyes that have witnessed both national and personal tragedy and redemption. Born in Tugbakeh, Liberia and raised in Monrovia, Wesley immigrated to the United States in 1991 to escape the Liberian civil war. In this moving collection, she invites us to join her as she buries loved ones, explores long-distance connections through social media, and sings bittersweet praises of the women around her, of mothers, and of Africa. The book is avaliable HERE on Amazon.com
“To have so many of Patricia Jabbeh Wesley’s remarkable poems in one volume is like holding a treasure chest or genie’s bottle—objects that are valued but hard to find, objects that once opened or rubbed explode into the world. Like these poems. As a survivor of civil war in Liberia and as a survivor of cancer, she has an exile’s love for the world with all of its limitations and longings, but also its small joys and consolations. She embraces what she can in her protective arms and in these poems. Indeed, she is a woman warrior who tells her truths with force and clarity. She doesn’t have the luxury of mincing her words, and we are all the better for it. Listen up.”
—-Jim Daniels. Jim Daniels is the author of numerous collections of poetry, most recently The Middle Ages (Red Mountain Press, 2018) and Street Calligraphy (Steel Toe Books, 2017). His third collection, Places/Everyone (University of Wisconsin Press, 1985), won the inaugural Brittingham Prize in Poetry in 1985.
“Patricia Jabbeh Wesley is unequivocal about the uses of poetry, of her poetry—she is determined to trade in truth, in the power of experience, in the beauty of language to alarm and delight and in the challenge she willingly bears to be an instrument of witness and articulation for her people—for Africa, for women, for the lovers of poetry. In Praise Song for My Children, we encounter a poet at the height of her skills and at the height of her clarity about the world and what things must be spoken into it. But we are blessed to be given an insight into how she arrives at this place of power—it is a remarkable selection of some of the most urgent poems to emerge out of the wars of Liberia. Here is work of incredible joy, deepest lamentation, and necessary hope. It is a sure testament.”
—–Kwame Senu Neville Dawes is a Ghanaian poet, actor, editor, critic, musician, and former Louis Frye Scudder Professor of Liberal Arts at the University of South Carolina. He is now Professor of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and editor-in-chief at Prairie Schooner magazine.