ALTOONA, Pa. — Patricia Jabbeh Wesley, professor of English at Penn State Altoona, has published a new book, “Breaking the Silence: Anthology of Liberian Poetry.” The anthology, which is her seventh book of poetry, her second edited anthology, and her ninth published book, including a children’s book, was recently released from the University of Nebraska Press in January 2023.
The 302-page anthology of poetry is the first comprehensive collection of any work of literature from Liberia, her original homeland, since before the nation’s independence in 1847. The book contains the work of dozens of poets, including Liberia’s early writers from the 1800s to the present.
This edited anthology was made possible by a one-semester sabbatical from Penn State Altoona and a 2020-21 Penn State Resident Faculty Fellowship from the Humanities Institute. The sabbatical and fellowship allowed Jabbeh Wesley to research and work on the collection. Included in the anthology are early founders of the African republic, including authors like President Edwin James Barclay, the 18th President of Liberia, and the author of Liberia’s National song, “The Lone Star Forever.”
Gabeba Baderoon, an associate professor of women's, gender and sexuality studies, and African Studies at Penn State wrote of the book: “Gathering and curating the first-ever anthology of Liberian poetry, Wesley has made literary history and immeasurably enriched the literature of the region and the continent. The collection opens with her thoughtful introduction to this immense endeavor and then introduces readers to a broad library of poems, ranging from hard-to-source early work from the 1800s to some of the newest writing emerging from the country, nurtured into being in generative workshops run by Wesley in Monrovia. Her combination of archaeological research and mentorship of younger writers means that 'Breaking the Silence' will stand as the definitive source on Liberian poetry for years to come.”
Booker Prize-winning renowned Afro-British author Bernardine Evaristo writes, “This compendium of Liberian poetry put together by the visionary writer, teacher, and survivor of the civil war, Patricia Jabbeh Wesley, is an inspiring achievement.”
Also included in the anthology is poetry by dozens of young, aspiring Liberian poets who participated in numerous summer writing workshops that Jabbeh Wesley conducted in Monrovia and across the country during her scholarly visits between 2016 to 2019 and a six-week Master Writing workshop in 2020. Her summer visits to Liberia, in preparation for work on the anthology, were partly supported by small internal grants from Penn State Altoona.