Patricia Jabbeh Wesley
Featured Writer

Dr. Patricia Jabbeh Wesley immigrated to the United States with her family during the 14-year Liberian civil war, a war that has shaped her writing as an African Diaspora woman writer in the United States. For more than two decades, Wesley’s poetry has given voice to the voiceless, the hundreds of thousands of Liberian war dead through its exploration of themes on the plight of the refugee of war, the new African Diaspora mother/wife and African femininity, motherhood, home, displacement, and the survivor as witness. African scholar and literary critic, Chielozona Eze describes Wesley as “one of the most prolific African poets of the twenty-first century,” and Kwame Dawes, poet and founder of the African Poetry Book Series describes her as “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.” She is the author of six critically acclaimed books of poetry including, Praise Song for My Children: New and Selected Poems, When the Wanderers Come Home, Where the Road Turns, The River is Rising, Becoming Ebony.  The editor of Breaking the Silence: Anthology of Liberian Poetry, which is the most comprehensive volume of Liberian literature since the nation’s independence, she is also the author of a children’s book, In Monrovia, the River Visits the Sea. Her poem, “One Day: Love Song for Divorced Women” was selected by US Poet Laureate, Ted Kooser as an American Life in Poetry  2011 featured poem, and selected again by Naomi Shihab Nye as the New York Times Magazine featured poem on June 7, 2020.

In 2023, Dr. Wesley was commissioned as the first Inaugural Poet Laureate of her original homeland, the Republic of Liberia’s inauguration of its 26th President, Joseph N. Boakai in the nation’s 177 year history, and on January 22, 2024, Patricia read her poem, “Liberia, Mother of Our Mothers’ Mothers,” at the inauguration in Monrovia, Liberia.

Her awards include the 2023 Theodore Roethke Memorial Poetry Prize for her sixth book of poems, Praise Song for My Children: New and Selected Poems, a 2022 Levinson Prize from Poetry Foundation, a 2021 Edward Stanley Award from Prairie Schooner, a 2002 Crab Orchard Award for her second book of poems, Becoming Ebony, among others. She has received many other awards and grants, including a 2020 Humanities Institute (HI) and a 2011, Institute of Arts (IAH) faculty Research Fellowships from Penn State, a 2016 WISE Women Literary Arts Award from Wise Women of Blair County, PA, a 2011 President Barack Obama Award from Blair County NAACP in Altoona, PA, among others.

Her individual poems, memoir articles, and fiction have appeared in dozens of magazines and anthologies, including in Harvard Review, Transition, Crab Orchard Review, Harvard Divinity Review, Prairie Schooner, among others, and her work has been translated in Spanish, Italian, Finnish, and Hebrew. She is Professor of English at Penn State Altoona.