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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.
About the Author
Patricia Jabbeh Wesley is the author of five collections of poetry, including When the Wanderers Come Home, Where the Road Turns, The River is Rising, and Becoming Ebony. She lives in Altoona, PA.
"These are affirming poems–songs, truly. . . . The power of Wesley’s collected work here is established in the book’s first poem, 'Some of Us Are Made of Steel,' blessedly inspirational verse for a world that needs it"
— The Millions
"In 1991, the brutal civil war in Liberia caused poet Patricia Jabbeh Wesley and her family to emigrate to the United States. The war splits her story nearly in two: To escape her home country, Jabbeh Wesley has said, she literally had to walk over dead bodies. While there is no forgetting such trauma, Jabbeh Wesley has built a career as an educator and internationally recognized poet. Her sixth collection, Praise Song for My Children, published by Pittsburgh-based Autumn House Press, includes selections from her first five books of poetry alongside two dozen new poems that continue tracing her trajectory as an African who’s spent the past three decades in America.. . . The subject matter includes family, intimate portraits of village life, and tough evocations of her country’s civil strife. The new poems find her confronting aging and current events, as well. But Jabbeh Wesley remains deeply invested in exploring the meaning of home."
— WESA Pittsburgh
"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, author of The Middle Ages
"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 Dawes
"...a stunning collection of new and selected poems."
— Pittsburgh Current