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Distributed for Autumn House Press

Praise Song for My Children

New and Selected Poems

With an Introduction by Matthew Shenoda

Distributed for Autumn House Press

Praise Song for My Children

New and Selected Poems

With an Introduction by Matthew Shenoda
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.

240 pages | 5 1/2 x 9 1/4

African Studies


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"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

Table of Contents

Intro by Matthew Shenoda
I Praise Song For My Children (New Poems)
Some of Us Are Made of Steel
Praise Song for My Children
I Saw Men Leaving My Mother
Fire and Rain
Praise Song for Sister Marie Morais Garber
November 12, 2015
The New Year 2018
Holding Back
At the Borderline
They Killed a Black Man in Brooklyn Today
On September 11
The Unbuckling: A Dirge
Too Many Chickens Are Coming Home to Roost
After the Election
Poem Written from Failed Chat Notes
The Meeting Place
Poem Written in My Doctor’s Office
TSA Check
The Woman Next Door
An Elegy for Art Smith
When I meet My Ancestors
II from When the Wanderers Come Home (2016)
So I Stand Here
The Cities We Lost
What Took Us to War
I Need Two Bodies
The Creation
Becoming Ghost
When Monrovia Rises
This is the Real Leaving
In My Dream
I Want to Be the Woman
A Room with A View
Losing Hair
2014, My Mamma Never Knew You
III from Where the Road Turns (2010)
In the Beginning II
Biography When the Wanderers Come Home
Love Song Before the Sun Goes Down
For My Husband After So Many Years
So This Is Where the Roads Merge
A Memorial for Herb Scott: One Year Later
Lover Lost at Sea
One Day
Ghosts Don’t Go Away Just Like That
Where the Road Turned
We Departed Our Homelands and We Came
The People Walking in Darkness
Some Things You Never Stop Looking For
Coming Home
Step Lightly, God: A Memorial
Reburial: To Lament of Drums
IV from The River is Rising (2007)
The River Is Rising
In The Ruined City: A Poem for Monrovia
An Elegy for the St. Peter’s Church Massacred
The Morning After: An Elegy
Something Death Cannot Know
Coming Home
When My Daughter Tells Me She Has a Boyfriend
Bringing Closure
At Point Loma
Monrovia Revisited
August 11, 2003
In A Moment When the World Stops
After The Memorial
While I Wait for the War
For Ma Nmano Jabbeh: A Dirge
In the Making of a Woman
A Winding Trail
Stranger Woman
The Women in My Family
For Kwame Nkrumah
Lamentation After 14 Years
Broken World
V from Becoming Ebony (2003)
In the Beginning
I Used to Own the Town
Get Out of Here, Boys!
Becoming Ebony
All the Soft Things of Earth
Requiem for Auntie
Today is Already Too Much
This is What I Tell My Daughter
M.T. Turning Thirteen
These Are the Reasons the Living Live
For My Husband
They Want to Rise Up
Elegy to West Point Fishermen
A Dirge for Charles Taylor
Around the Mountains
When I Meet Moses
Coming Home to Iyeeh
We’ve Done It All
Wandering Child
A Poem for My Father
My Neighbors’ Dogs
A Letter to My Brother Coming to America
My New Insurance Plan
The Corrupt Shall Rise Incorruptible
I Am Acquainted with Waiting
VI from Before The Palm Could Bloom (1998)
Tugbakeh: A Song
Child Soldier
In Memory of Cousin Hazel: A Dirge
Monrovia Women
I’m Still Thinking
Outside Child
One of These Days
When I Get to Heaven

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