Liberian-American Wesley Wins Roethke Memorial Poetry Prize – Voice of Nigeria


By Rafatu Salami, Abuja

Altona teacher Patricia Wesley won the 2023 Theodore Roethke Memorial Poetry Prize.

Wesley is Professor of English, Creative Writing and African Literature at Penn State, USA.

The Liberian American will get $10,000 price for its 2020 collection “Song of Praise for My Children: New and Collected Poems.”

Announcing the award on its website, Penn State wrote; “the award is given to a book published within the previous three years that has made a significant contribution to American poetry. Past recipients of the award include; Howard Nemerov, Richard Hugo, Carolyn Kizer, Carl Phillips and Douglas Kearney.

Wesley will be going to Saginaw Valley State University in March 2023 to participate in poetry-related activities on campus and accept the award in person,” He added.

Patricia Jabbeh Wesley

Professor Patricia Wesley immigrated to the United States with her family during the 14-year Liberian Civil War, a war that helped shape her writing as a diaspora African 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 his exploration of themes of the plight of war refugees, the new mother/wife of the Diaspora African woman 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 21st century.

Also Kwame Dawes, poet and founder of the African Poetry Book Series, described her as ‘a poet at the height of her skills and at the height of her clarity about the world and what to say in it.

Wesley 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 American Poet Laureate Ted Kooser as an American Life in Poetry on June 13, 2011, featured poem. More recently, this same poem was selected by Naomi Shihab Nye as a featured poem by The New York Times Magazine on June 7, 2020.

Wesley has 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 his work has been translated into Spanish, Italian, Finnish and Hebrew.

The Roethke Poetry Prize
Saginaw Valley State University said; “The Theodore Roethke Memorial Prize for Poetry has been awarded since 1968 on a triennial basis. The award is given to a book published within the previous three years that has made a significant contribution to American poetry. The recipient must be a living American poet.

Mercy Chukwudiebere

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