Poetry Saved Her Life: Patricia Jabbeh Wesley

Patricia Jabbeh WesleyWriting poetry and fiction since she was fourteen years old, Patricia Jabbeh Wesley, realized that she “was more gifted in poetry than fiction” when she was in college.” Currently, she is editing “a collection of short stories, while seeking an agent for my memoir, so maybe one day soon, I can say I am a writer of three genres.”

Born and raised in Liberia, in 1989 when the Liberian civil war began Jabbeh Wesley was “experimenting with fiction.” However, her shift to poetry was prompted by the civil war, and at its beginning had nearly completed a collection of poetry. Jabbeh Wesley speaks to how the shift in emphasis occurred.

“It was during our flight as a family, the urgency of the war, bombs falling, people dying around me, and always being on the run with my small children, my husband, my mother, and her family that I realized that war had no time for the long windedness of prose. I needed to capture my life during those days in the refugee, displaced camp, and I did with the urgency of war. That was when I began writing only poetry. And then I knew I was more a poet than a fiction writer.”

Confident and outspoken, Patricia Jabbeh Wesley teaches creative writing at Penn State University where she is an Associate Professor;  she has lived in the USA since 1991, where she earned a doctorate degree. She has so far published four poetry collections, and is very popular reader both nationally and internationally at festival as well as universities. Jabbeh Wesley shares some of the top venues where she has performed.

“I was invited to the 2007 famous International Poetry Festival of Medellin in Colombia, South America, and then again to the 20th anniversary celebration, 2010, something which rarely happens with that festival. I have also been a guest of the 2008 Pan African Literary Forum in Accra, Ghana, that brought together writers and students of writing from around Africa and the world, including the USA. Also, I was a guest at the Fall for the Book Festival 2009, held throughout Virginia; and to the very renowned City of Asylum Festival, the Calvin College Festival of Faith and Writing.”

Patricia Jabbeh Wesley was one of the featured poets at the Kistrech Poetry Festival. Of her participation she says, “I was very privileged to be a part of the Kistrech International Poetry Festival for the opportunity to present my poetry to my East African brethren, to read at the three universities along with other poets, and to meet all of the wonderful writers from around the world, the younger generation of African poets as well as others in the Diaspora who are my contemporaries. The festival taught me a lot. I also got the opportunity to see a region of Africa that I had long longed to see.”

“I am an African with the heart for my continent. despite being away in the Diaspora for two decades. When I write, it is to bring my culture and my people to the world, to bring to life the stories of our war, those who died, and to give voice to my people, the Liberian and the African people. I want my audience to hear the voice of one African woman poet, and to understand that our poetry speaks a far different language than the poetic language of the African man.”

Her poem below reveals her social consciousness.

Sometimes, I Close My Eyes

Sometimes I see the world, scattered

in small brick shacks along the hillsides

far away in Colombia,

where it is only the poor, at the peak

of the mountains. Medellin, holding on

so the city can find rest.

Sometimes, I see the poor in my Bai,

shoeless and old, his teeth threatening

to leave him if he continued on,

and walking on barefoot, he looks ahead,

his eyes, not betraying the future, where

the children he’s populated

the globe with, will cradle him beneath

the soil, where we all go, poor or rich,

where we all go, if we believe in the grave.

Sometimes, it is just these children who

have emerged from a long war they never

saw; children, left along

the sewage drains, the same people who

brought on the war, now recapturing

the land as if the land could be captured.

Sometimes, the world is hazy, as if fog

were a thing for the artist’s rough canvas;

sometimes, the world is a shattered piece

of your Iyeeh’s dish, the one from ages ago,

the one that was not meant to crack,

but sometimes, this is the world, the simple,

ordinary world, where people are too

ordinary to matter. Sometimes, I close my

eyes so I don’t have to see the world.

1979894_10203427294191848_1421844885_nTo learn more about Patricia Jabbeh Wesley visit her website: http://www.pjabbeh.com

;and her blog: poetryforpeace.wordpress.com

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