Tag Archives: poetry

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

A Man of Passion: Erling Kittelsen

09-erlingDSC_3492Erling Kittelsen, from Norway, has been writing since he was 14.years old, “as a way to survive,” he says. He was one of the poets in the 2015 Kistrech Poetry Festival, and says he was happy to participate in this festival, as he “loves the feeling of Africa.” Kittelsen has been to Africa four times before. He reminisces, “ I was in Tanzania long time ago, for my own writing and understanding.” His second trip was to “Mali because of a theatre play,” and as a result of his participation in that production, he traveled and performed “all over the country.” Another trip took him to, Namibia/Botswana, where he attended a dance festival in Kalahari, but the main reason for his visit was to learn about the San people.

Poet, novelist, children’s writer, playwright and translator, Kittelsen made his literary debut in 1970 with the poetry collection, Wild Birds, which he describes as “meditation pictures.” His poem, “How to Fly,” is one such example.


Human bird

we throw you

off the cliff

do you know how to fly?

norway-oslo-aker-brygge-area-modern-architectureConsidered an experimental poet with a strong social consciousness, Erling Kittelsen draws from fables, legends and oral poetry from various cultures. His work is in defense of social and cultural concerns, as well as the environment and some of the negative effects of technology. Kittelsen was awarded the Mads Wiel Nygaard’s Endowment in 1982, the Aschehoug Prize in 1990, and the Dobloug Prize in 2002.

Speaking about his participating in the Kistrech Poetry Festival, Erling Kittelsen says, “It was very interesting for me because of the other participants and the good feeling of Africa that learn me a lot.”


Gregarious Poui


DSC05316 shyness has no place

with this one

butter-colored trumpets

scream out to be seen

the bees and hummingbirds

hear and peck and flit


somewhere about the mid

19th century

the name was first recorded

in Trinidad

still today the islanders

gather in the savannah

sitting on the pink or yellow flowers

its soft and spongy wood

is used for floats        razor straps

even the inner soles of shoes


it is believed

fall in love

when the blossoms

litter the campus ground





but so ravishingly beautiful

she is deemed ornamental

south American by birth

she is known and can be found

almost world wide

with long spiky legs and arms

she scrambles over all others

especially when life

feels a little dry

she spreads opens her arms

and her ruffled dress

clusters of three and six bract

dazzles your eyes with colors

purple                        magenta         pink

read    orange            white yellow



you know her

but she has many names

in Guam where she is official

they call her Puti Tai Nobiu

Bugambilia in Mexico

Napoleón in Honduras

Veranera in Columbia & Nicaragua

Trinitaria in Cuba and Puerto Rico

Santa Rita in Brazil

and Papelillo in Peru

don’t judge her

these are not aliases

nor is she a flounce

confident and big-hearted

she spreads her love



YUCCA NOT to be Confused with YUCA



a proud white flower

its head and body

are always erect

protected by

its sword-shaped leaves

that will pierce you

if and when you attempt

to cut it down


known by many names

Adam’s Needle, Bear Grass,

Dagger Plant, Joshua Tree,

Mohave or Aloe Yucca,


Soapweed or Spanish Bayonet

it is edible

taking on the flavor of the seasoning

soft and delicate in the mouth

when deliciously sautéed

with shallots and red peppers


long known for its medicinal value

it reduces high blood pressure

relives migraine headaches

stomach disorder

poor circulation

liver and gallbladder disorders

and even diabetes


most people walk or drive by

don’t even pause

to take it its splendor

much less assess its worth

to improve their health


long ago and even now

among the naturalists

they apply yucca

directly to sores

to stop bleeding

relieve sprains & swellings

and even to eliminate

dandruff and baldness
often used

as a foaming and flavoring agent

in carbonated beverages

i’ve long admired its

unassumed beauty

that says i own myself

and that’s all that matters


as a child

every sunday after church

when we went to the beach

i took shelter from the sun

under one of the many sea-grapes

that lined the shore


marveled at their hard almond-shaped seed

the flesh of which was never salty

i had to hunt for a heavy stone

to break the nut free


some of the branches

were low enough

for me to swing my legs over

hang upside down and try

to catch my shadow


my mother sometimes

gathered the nuts in a bag

an amateur oenologist

she had long been at the practice

of making wines from local fruits

inviting the men in the community

over to sample her various concoctions

she would have been a vintner in another

time and place but this was jamaica

after all and she was woman

black and ambitious and accepted

no boundaries to her imagination

which she gifted me

i remember learning

that seagrape was dioecious

pondered how

the male and female

got together to mate

and who collected the sap

we used in Jamaica

for dyeing and tanning leather

sea-grape or cocolloba

the latter name always made

me giggle falling to the ground

like the brown leaves

that it sheds abundantly

covering the terrain

in this fall that is summer

here in st croix


Madam Hibiscus


she is your regular

kind of woman

can be found chatting


on many roads

perched here and there

commonly stunning

wearing mostly red

like only

a confident woman can

with her five petals

that flap and wave in the wind

her green bud encases

and her stigma

stands like an erect

penis in anticipation

she’s the national flower

for Haiti, Hawaii,

Malaysia & South Korea


if you want favors from

Kali and Ganesha in India

bring them a red hibiscus

before you go courting a

Tahitian or Hawaiian woman

make sure her hibiscus is

behind her right ear

indicating she is available

in the Philippines

children use it to

make bubbles

in Jamaica as a child

we used the petals to shine our shoes

we drink it as tea

known as bissap in West Africa

Karkadé in Egypt & Sudan

it is a diuretic

contains vitamin c

lowers blood pressure

although often mislabeled

it is not sorrel the is drunken

in Jamaican & Trinidad and elsewhere

throughout the Caribbean

we use it to decorate

our homes

we grow it to beautify

our yards

humming-birds, butterflies and bees

love it

horticulturists cultivate

myriad colors and lacy petals

but if you should stop to ask

and admire and fondle her petals

she will say to you

me is just an ordinary woman

wearing red who loves to hang out

hibiscua3adisa15 hibiscus2adisa15

Mr. Peacock

To us he might

appear showy

a bit extravagant

with his long train

some say

to attract females

others say

to show his powers


but he is indifferent

to our gawking

as he struts up and down

estate st john road

the resident bird

who has to pick

for his food just like

the other birds

does he realize

he’s a long way from home

whether from india

or the congo basin

he is but a peafowl

who fans wide his tail

when he goes courting

hoping his iridescent feathers

will dazzle the peahen

and he will get to bed her

and they will make peachicks


The Marriage

They’ve lived side by side

for many years

ignoring one another

preoccupied with

their own growth

their own splendor

Then they bothnoticed

the other

no major attraction

or desire

but over time

attitudes change

and feelings shift

the story takes on multiple twists

about who noticed whom


who made the first advance

who wanted more that

just a tryst


Now they are so entwined

arms enveloping a

breath breathing into breaths

faces pressed cheek to cheek

bodies molded

to separate them

would surely lead

to death

they have grown as one

flowering and complementing

each other’s beauty

the pink-lavender petals

of the cedar and the

bodacious red of the bougainvillea

a marriage that reminds

us all that hope reigns supreme


Sea Woman

This morning on my walk

the sea was thrashing

waves tumbling into waves

-a two year old child

on the floor

feet and arms flailing

tears and snot staining his face—

she was going on bad

like she in carnival

drinking and whining up de place

vomiting sea grass that she spewed

on the shore creating an avenue

of sargasso forcing sand to retreat

more ashore – a dog whipped and curled

in a corner-

me decide wasn’t going to pay she no mind

let she rush me feet and spray me legs

no sea bath this morning and getting entangled

in she bile

me hearing old people’s warning in me head

heed de sea

she is a generous woman

but when she vex stay clear

she will nyam yuh and not leave a trace