Fall for the Book Festival Reading: Gabeba Baderoon and Patricia Jabbeh Wesley- Saturday, Sept. 19, 2009, at 2 pm. The reading takes place at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art on 950 Independence Ave. You are invited, and please, bring all of your friends.
Fall for the Book Festival 2009 began on September 6, 2009 with preview events, and will continue throughout the DC, Virginia and Maryland areas this month. Many great readers will bring their works to literary audiences through readings, discussions, and other festivities in libraries, institutions and other locations throughout the Washington DC area. This year, the festival is significant to me because my friend, Gabeha Baderoon, a poet, originally from South Africa and I will be participating in the readings as featured authors. Our reading takes place during one of the many preview events of the Festival. I would like to take this time to invite you to come and hear us read from our books of poetry, and enjoy the diverse cultures of Africa through our works. Our work will also surprise you because when you come to the reading, you will see that we do not only write about the great continent of Africa, but we also write about our experiences as Americans and immigrants from another world, living in a new world, exploring all of the images both of our homelands and our new found home of America.
GABEBA BADAROON– POET
Our Published Books:
Gabeba Baderoon, here presenting at a previous occasion, will be reading from her collections of poetry, including “The Dream in the Next Body” “A Hundred Silences,” among others. I believe Gabeba will also read a poem or two from newer poetry. Gabeba is an Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature and Women’s Studies at Penn State University. She is particularly dear to me because she is my friend and colleague. Over the last two years since I first met her, Gabeba and I have collaborated on various projects, including presenting on a panel on African Women’s Literature at the African Literature Association, visiting one another’s African Literature classes at Penn State talking on issues to our scholarship, reading together at other poetry events, among others. This fall, she and I will be part of a discussion on a panel with the African author and friend of ours, Binyavanga Wainaina, when we will discuss the topic, “Who Owns African Literature.” In November, I will be visiting Gabeba’s Comparative to read from my new book, “The River is Rising,” for the benefit of her students who are currently reading the book. Gabeba and I usually compliment each other in our readings, if you ask me. This is because my own poems and poetry reading complement the silences in Gabeba’s images, the beauty of softness of her language and the vividness of feelings her work brings to the reader. Where my images can be brutal in its portrayal of war and ruin, Gabeba can bring the softness, and where my poetry may often burst out with humor, she can bring calm and seriousness. All of this is from my own observation, but you will have to speak to Gabeba yourself or hear us read to know. I have read all of her books not because she is my friend, but mainly because her voice as a writer originally from South Africa is a necessary voice in this contemporary day of poetry, and because I believe poets have a lot to learn from each other.
Patricia Jabbeh Wesley performing at the City of Asylum Poetry-Jazz Festival 2008
Our Published Books:
Here I am above, reading at another occasion. My books above include, “The River is Rising,” “Becoming Ebony,” and “Before the Palm Could Bloom: Poems of Africa.” I will also read from a new manuscript. I am shamelessly inviting you and your friends to attend our reading on September 19,2009 because unless you come, Gabeba and I will have to collaborate again this time by reading to each other. I don’t want to say anything about myself because when you attend the reading, you will get to know my poetry and about me. The one thing, I’d say is that I am also a professor at Penn State, but I teach Creative Writing and English mainly, specializing in poetry writing. When you explore the rest of my blogging, you will get to know me. We are both fortunate to be among 130 writers from across the US who will participate in this important occasion, and it will be our honor to come hear us at the Smithsonian. Sherman Alexie is the main reader, I think. Don’t take my word for it. Visit the Festival site at:
———————-POETRY FOR YOUR ENJOYMENT———————————————————-
The Sound of My Name
————- By Gabeba Baderoon
To step into another language
direct the breath
swell the mouth with vowels
feel the jaw configure itself around the word
write another script on the tongue
A woman learning Russian describes
the new inclination of her head,
her chest, her hands,
the muscular changes in the tongue
the way sibilance tightens
the upper lip
like bee stings around the jaw
the movement of air over her throat
a subtle invasion
taking possession of her mouth
I teach you to say the first letter of my name,
a sound between g and h,
for which there is no letter in English.
take a sip of water,
make a flat oval of the lips,
Remember the sound of the exhalation.
Clear the throat.
Between the two is the start of my name.
The River Is Rising
————————Patricia Jabbeh Wesley
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!