Announcing My Third Book of Poems: The River is Rising

The book is ready for prepublication order on at reduced price:

My third book of poems comes out of Autumn House Press on December 1, 2007, and I am excited to introduce you to a few poems that are in that collection. Before I bring the poems to you in this blog, let me give you more information on the book. The book’s title, The River is Rising comes from the poem, “The River is Rising,” which was inspired by the end of the Liberian civil war. Some people without much reflection may think that the poem is a dedication to the Liberian President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, but I will say it is not at all. The poem is more than that; I mean that it is more than a dedication to one person. I have a lot of respect and love for Liberia’s President, the first woman president in Africa, but the poem is however dedicated to all Liberian women, especially, those who suffered as a result of the terrible civil war.

Here are some reviews about the new book and my two previous books:

Patricia JabbehWesley’s The River is Rising is both brilliant and heartbreaking. Survivor of the brutal Liberian Civil War, Wesley bears witness to a life she lost to that war, and to what it means to be a refugee who has remade herself. Her candid, sly humor covers the scars. Surviving entails enduring guilt, working through memories of horror, and finding the courage to start over in this strange country, the U.S., where people talk passionately about sun and vacations, write seriously of “invisible goddesses in the sky,” and it is “an abomination to know the world’s pain” (“Until the Plane Drops”). Some of Wesley’s moving poems are wise, some full of controlled fury. Some drip with irony. The speaker of one poem watches the Super Bowl, a game she does not know or understand, and thinks of the many “players” who never knew they were playing a game “until someone found them dead by the road side.” “To every war,” she says simply, “there are no winners” (“Broken World”). I am in awe of these beautiful, necessary poems, and the glory and largesse of Wesley’s vision.

——Cynthia Hogue, author of The Incognito Body and Flux



Patricia Jabbeh Wesley’s poetry is heartfelt, wise, and alive… One senses in her that rare combination of someone who has been deeply schooled in both literature and life, and who has integrated those two into a deeply felt and shrewd worldview.Stuart Dybek, author of The Coast of Chicago

This second book…has something of the incantatory nature of Celan’s poetics, in which the sheer repetition of certain phrases and ideas points out the irresolution in the mind of a survivor… Part of the strength of this collection is that it does not allow itself to wallow in the bleakness of sentiment, but instead confronts and examines the power of death and suffering… —- Publisher’s Weekly (about Becoming Ebony)

Wesley writes with clear-eyed lyricism about her ruthless and beleaguered homeland, and the bittersweet relief and loss of the diaspora. Her poems are scintillating and vivid…

— Booklist *starred review* (about Becoming Ebony)


Go to and place a prepublication order for The River is Rising at the reduced rate of 32 % and have amazon ship the book to you by December 1, 2007. The book is also in time for those of you who might need to use it as a textbook, and please don’t kill me for being a salesperson. I’m only doing what is right to do in this day and age. And while you are at it, you should know that the two previous books, Becoming Ebony (SIU Press, 2003) and Before the Palm Could Bloom: Poems of Africa (New Issues Press, 1998) are also available for purchase.

My publisher wrote me an e-mail requesting that I inform my friends about the new book, and I said sure, I’ll be glad to. So I sent out e-mails to only those who are in my permanent e-mail address book, I mean those I felt comfortable writing. And I was surprised by the outpouring of kind words from dozens of you out there.

I have already received nearly a hundred e-mails from my friends, colleagues, and fellow writers, all of them very excited about reading another group of strange wondering and meandering poems from my very questioning mind.

Over the years, I have been very humbled and fortunate to meet thousands of poetry lovers throughout this great country, from one college campus to another, from one neighborhood bookstore to another, from church group to church group, from coast to coast. Most recently, I met thousands others in South America, people who could transcend all else for poetry.

Many other poetry lovers I have never met in person, but through the power of the Internet, I have connected with so many good people, some of who are more than fans to me. I have been humbled by the many kind reviews and reviewers who have given my poetry the attention it has gotten so far. My poetry, which is so African, so much about exile, about the Diaspora, and filled with so many images of a far away land, and yet, my reviewers have sought to understand me and to love me despite my short comings. I think what they have seen is that my poetry is poetry, and there is no difference between poetry as long as it speaks the language of poetry. I feel that poetry is like a human kind. We are all the same. We only speak different languages and come from different backgrounds, but when we are poked with a needle, we bleed only blood if we are human.

Over the years since my the publication of the two books, I have found myself in turn becoming a fan of the lovers of my poetry, a fan of my reviewers who keep me in check, a fan of their very insightful reviews, and a student of their writing, of their insight into my poetry. Therefore as I pause for this new birth to take place, the birth of a book that reminds me of the birth of a new child, I am curious to see who will be brave again to tackle the new book as so many did with Becoming Ebony. I must confess, I do not know most of my reviewers, which is the best part, and yet I know them because I know what they have said about the books.

After I sent the e-mails out two nights ago, many many of my kind friends immediately responded from all over the world, from all sections of this country, expressing kind words to me even though I was simply telling them of a book they already knew about. Thanks to all of you, if you happen to find time out of your busy schedules visit this blog. If you happen to come into my little world where my blog is another place where I can find solitude after my family is asleep, I say thank you. Sometimes, one needs a blog. Sometimes, one needs a poem, sometimes one needs only a cold glass of ice water. Tonight, I need all of them: a blog, a poem, and a cool glass of ice water.

Thank you friends. Thank you for those kind e-mails. When your book comes out, when your turn comes, when your child goes to college, when your time comes, let me know, and I will be there.



The River Is Rising

a song for Liberian women

The river is rising, and this is not a flood.
After years of drought, the ground, hardened

and caked in blood, in dry places, here we are, today.

River banks are swelling with the incoming tide,
coming in from the Atlantic just beyond the ridge

of rolling hills and rocks in Monrovia.

Finally, here we stand at the banks!
Finally, here we are, see how swiftly

the tide rushes in to fill the land with salt.

Fish and crabs and the huge clams and shrimps-
all the river’s creatures are coming in with the tide.

The river is rising, but this is not a flood.

Do not let your eye wander away from this scene.
Yes, all the bones below the Mesurado or the St. Paul

or Sinoe or the Loffa River will be brought up
to land so all the overwhelming questions
can once more overwhelm us.

But they are bringing in our lost sister
on a high stool, and there she stands, waving at those

who in refusing to die, simply refused to die.

This is not a song just for Ellen. This is a song for Mapue
and Tenneh and all the Ellens there are.

This is a song for Kema and Musu and Massa.

This is for Nyeneplue and Nyenoweh, for Kou and Glayee
and Korto, for the once solitary woman of war.

This is a song so Wani will also dance.

This is a song for that small girl child who came out
just this morning. They are still seeking a name

to call her- a river name, a name from the water
and from the fire too. That solitary mother in flight

will no longer birth her child by the roadside
where shells were her baby’s first bed.

Let the womb quiver!
Let church bells jingle!
Let hundreds of drums pound, Klan-klan-teh!
Let men bring out old trumpets
so the wind will take flight!

Let that small pepper bird on the tree branch cry
and sing no more the solitary song.

Let the Mesurado behind my home or what was my home
or still is or maybe, maybe, who cares?

The river is rising, but this is not a flood.

Let no man stand between us
and the river again!


At Point Loma

At Point Loma, a student may dip a toe or two in
the ocean, in between classrooms and teachers, in

between falling in and out of love, between the pages
of a book’s silence. On a fast day, the windy air, misty,

salty, so much beauty for the eyes, and I’d say, what a life!
In my small, Pennsylvania town, old railroad tracks

still wind their way around Altoona, old steel country,
rusting away from lack of use, the green mountains,

rising like clumps of dirt mounds. Altoona, where
some will never understand how a student can learn

anything sitting on a beach. But in San Diego, the
hotel suite, where my kind hosts have lavished this

undeserving luxury upon me, a suite that hangs over
the bay, the lovely balcony frightens me though.

What if I slip and fall into this old bay where a man
rises out of his boat at dawn as if he were a fish.

His wheelbarrow, squeaking with things he is hauling
on to his boat on the bay. There are so many boats,

the water has no air to breathe; the air has no water
to drink. There is so much in this life to live for,

and yet my boat neighbors have chosen to live on
the water, not on the shoreline, on the sand, or on

the bare cliffs where Point Loma University, so
blessed, sits along the peaceful shoreline as if waiting

for God. This is the sort of place that follows
the traveler around forever, like the old stories Iyeeh

told me in Dolokeh. I am not one to fall in love
with a place so easily, but somehow, I cannot help

smiling at these palms, these foliage, these people,
and this wind that takes me way back home where

these shrubberies also grow wild in Monrovia.
I wonder what was on God’s mind, San Diego, when

he made you? This sort of place makes my soul cry
for that other shoreline so far away, where home sits

by the sea, waiting, too, where the ocean is wild and hot.

Monrovia Revisited

This is the city that killed my mother;
its crooked legs bent
from standing too long,
waiting so angry people can kill
themselves too.

No grass along street corners—
so many potholes from years of war.
Immigrants from all
over the globe used to come here
on tender feet,

in search of themselves.
Abandoned city—
a place that learned
how to cry out loud even though
nobody heard.

This is the city where I first learned
how to lose myself.
Windy city, blue ocean city.
They say a city on the hill
cannot be hid.

The city of salty winds, salty tears,
where stubborn people still hold
us hostage after Charles Taylor.
You should come here if you want
to know how sacred
pain can be.




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