Patricia Jabbeh Wesley, Ph.D.

Patricia Jabbeh Wesley
Professor, Creative Writing and African Literature
Office Phone
Office Location
Misciagna Family Center for Performing Arts, 125
    Biography

    Dr. Patricia Jabbeh Wesley immigrated to the United States with her family during the 14-year Liberian civil war, a war that has helped shape her writing as a Diaspora African 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 books of poetry: Praise Song for My Children: New and Selected Poems, When the Wanderers Come Home, Where the Road Turns, The River is Rising, Becoming Ebony, and Before the Palm Could Bloom: Poems of Africa. She is also the author of a children’s book, In Monrovia, the River Visits the Sea, (One Moore Books, 2012). Her poem, “One Day: Love Song for Divorced Women” was selected by US Poet Laureate, Ted Kooser as an American Life in Poetry June 13, 2011, featured poem. Most recently, that same poem was selected by Naomi Shihab Nye as the New York Times Magazine featured poem on June 7, 2020. She has had dozens of individual poems and memoir articles anthologized and published in literary magazines, including 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.

    As a literary scholar and professor, Wesley has conducted research on Liberian women’s war stories, served as elected Executive Committee Member and Chair of the African Literature Division of the Modern Language Association (MLA 2003- 2008), and has presented numerous papers on her own poetics, African literature, African poetry, and poetry as a genre at several international conferences and literary festivals in the US and around the world. In 2008, she was commissioned by Advocates of Human Rights as an Expert Witness in the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Hearings in Minneapolis, MN, on the Liberian civil war, where she presented both her wartime experiences as a witness and her research over the many years of the Liberian civil war.

    Wesley has received many awards and grants, including a 2020 Humanities Institute Fellowship from Penn State and a 2011 Institute of Arts (IAH) Fellowship from Penn State, a 2016 WISE Women Literary Arts Award from Wise Women of Blair County, Pennsylvania, a 2011 President Barack Obama Award from Blair County NAACP in Altoona, PA, the 2010 Liberian Award for her poetry and her mentorship of young Liberians in the Diaspora, a Penn State AESEDA Collaborative Grant for her research on Liberian Women's Trauma stories from the Civil War, a 2002 Crab Orchard Award for her second book of poems, a World Bank Fellowship, among others. Her poems have been nominated four times for the Pushcart Awards. Patricia’s poetry has been extensively reviewed and has been the subject of book chapters by literary scholars of literature across the world, including recent reviews in the UK, in the US, Scotland, and in Canada, and in Africa. Reviewers have explored her work’s contribution to gender issues, Africans in the Diaspora, exile, women in war, and Liberia for more than two decades now.

    Research Interests
    • Poetry Writing
    • Memoir and Creative Non-Fiction Writing
    • Poetry as a Genre
    • African and African Diaspora Literature
    • Postcolonial African Literature
    • World Poetry
    • African Studies