Breaking the Silence


Breaking the Silence

Anthology of Liberian Poetry

Edited by Patricia Jabbeh Wesley

African Poetry Book Series

302 pages


March 2023


$21.95 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

March 2023


$21.95 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

March 2023


$21.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

Named a Notable African Book of 2023 by Brittle Paper

Breaking the Silence
is the first comprehensive collection of literature from Liberia since before the nation’s independence. Patricia Jabbeh Wesley has gathered work from the 1800s to the present, including poets and emerging young writers exploring contemporary literary traditions with African and African diaspora poetry that transcends borders. In this collection, Liberia’s founding settlers wrestle with their identity as African free slaves in the homeland from which their ancestors were captured, and writers of the early twentieth and twenty-first centuries find themselves navigating a landscape at odds with itself.

From poets of Liberia’s past to young writers of the present, the contributors to this volume celebrate the beauty of their nation while mourning the devastation of a long, bloody civil war.

Author Bio

Patricia Jabbeh Wesley is a professor of English, creative writing, and African literature at Pennsylvania State University–Altoona. She immigrated to the United States with her husband and children in 1991, during the Liberian civil war. Wesley is the winner of the Levinson Prize from the Poetry Foundation and is the author of six collections of poetry, including Praise Song for My Children: New and Selected Poems, winner of the 2023 Theodore Roethke Memorial Poetry Prize; Becoming Ebony, a 2002 Crab Orchard Award winner; and When the Wanderers Come Home (Nebraska, 2016). She is a founder of Young Scholars of Liberia.


“This groundbreaking anthology takes us on an epic journey through Liberian poetry, from the past to the present. It is a surprising and fascinating read.”—Bernardine Evaristo, author of the Booker Prize–winning Girl, Woman, Other

“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. 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.”—Gabeba Baderoon, author of The Dream in the Next Body

Table of Contents


Part 1. Early Liberian Poetry, 1800–1959
Hilary Teage
Land of the Mighty Dead

Daniel Bashiel Warner
“All Hail, Liberia Hail,” Liberian National Anthem
Wishing to Be “21”

Robert H. Gibson
Heavenly Rest Implored
Rise, Take Up Thy Bed and Walk
Song of the First Emigrants to Cape Palmas

St Paul’s River Liberia

The Emigrant’s Hymn

Edwin James Barclay
The Lone Star: A National Song
To Pauline—a Flirt
To Lygia
To Jealous Lygia
Human Greatness
Afric’s Lament
The Race-Soul
The Ocean’s Roar
Song of the Harmattan
The Past

Part 2. Liberian Poetry, 1960–1989
Rev. Father James David Kwee Baker
O Maryland! Dear Maryland!
Land of the Beautiful
Cavalla Grand
Ode to Cape Mount
Divine Guidance

Roland Tombekai Dempster
Is This Africa
Africa’s Plea
The Lone Star Shines
When You Die—a Philosophy of Life
The Poet’s Ear
Take the World Away, but Give Me Freedom
Go On and Do, Let the People Talk
To Man
The Pepper Bird Is Singing
Liberia in Verse and Song

H. Carey Thomas
A Sonnet—the Poet’s Soul
Ask Me Why
No Longer Yesterday
Because You Told Me
When You Sigh
At Sunset
Echoes of a Longing Heart
The Tom-Toms Beat No More

Bai T. Moore
Ebony Dust
Monrovia Market Women
Africa in Retrospect
The Legend of Shad Tubman
A Wingless Bird
My Africa
The Bulldozer
The Hallelujah Stuff
Yana Boys
The Strength of a Nation
Ko Bomi hee m koa
Ba nya m go koma

Kona Khasu (James Roberts)
Dear Patrice Lumumba
Our Man on Broad Street
Unnamed Thing
Their Words—Deception
To Time Our Enemy
The Old Stream

Part 3. Contemporary Liberian Poetry, 1990–Present
Althea Romeo-Mark
Who’s on Watch?
Visiting Khufu
Oya (Wind in Cape Town)
A Different Kind of Pied Piper 2020
The Cat-Gods Have Fallen

Patricia Jabbeh Wesley
Praise Song for My Children
November 12, 2015
What Took Us to War
When Monrovia Rises
I Want to Be the Woman
Biography When the Wanderers Come Home
We Departed Our Homelands and We Came
An Elegy for the St. Peter’s Church Massacre
They Want to Rise Up
Monrovia Women
I’m Waiting

Part 4. Emerging and Aspiring Liberian Poets
Barth Akpah
Harper Nedee?
Oche Dike Ala (Grandma Has Gone)

Jee-Won Mawein Esika Arkoi
A Woman
My Mother’s Tale

Watchen Johnson Babalola
While Tomorrow Waits
Divided We Stand

Edwin Olu Bestman
New Kru Town, Where I Come From
Darkness, the Surname of a Poor Lover
How to Write a Dirge for Liberia

Edward K. Boateng
Memories of Home
Curing My Mother’s Wound
Genealogy of the Fourteen Pieces of Liberia
Maybe I’ll Go Home

Tetee Alexandra Bonar
He Stole a Piece of Me

Chorlyn E. Chor

Sunny Eddie Crawford
You Are Mine
Words in Portrait

Arthur Shedrick Davies
Deepu: A Definition of Divinity
Origins of the Poet Next Door
This Is Poetry

Maureen Jennifer Davies
Free Me

Essah Cozett Diaz
Our Mother Is Gold
When a Rolling Stone Leaves Pebbles Behind
For Daughters Who May Never Be Mothers
For Women Who Are Water in Fields of Rice
From Coal Pots to Gas Stoves
I Wasn’t Ready to Open My Eyes

Mawata Dukuly
The Brown Beauty
Who Is a Leader?

James Varney Dwalu
The Oppressed
I Am Nothing (Neutrality)

Cynthia Senu Gailor
Where Were You?

Daniel W. Garteh Jr.
Quarantine in Hope

Cherbo Geeplay

Aloysius S. Harmon
The Diary of an Orphan
Pain as Metaphor
West Point, Liberia

Ruby M. Harmon
Nah Fooh, Nah Fooh
Grey Stone Blues
Mother and Daughter

Quita Harvey
We Need to Pass It On

Laurel Iloani
One World, One People

Patrice Juah
The Ebola Ride
An Afro-Madrileña Love Note

McChen A. D. Kanneo
Ebony Perfection

Jeremy Teddy Karn
The Making of Grief
Elegy for a Friend

Evelyn Kehleay-Miller
My First Winter

Kerry Adamah Kennedy
I Live Where Billboards Are Broken

Janetta Konah
Water Birds
My Grieving Mother

Nvasekie Konneh
The Life of a Poet
My Father’s Last Prayer

Lekpele M. Nyamalon
Rock Your Jaws
You Post Stockade

Jackie Sayegh
Say Nothing

Eunice Sua Seyaker
Sing to Me, Ade: On Reading “Praise Song for My Children”

Lamelle Shaw
Ashes of My Heart

Mohamed Sheriff
Nomad Child
The First Heartbeat

Joshua T. G. Smith

Prince U. D. Tardeh
Let’s Be Cool

Augustine F. Taylor Jr.
Red Light

Ayouba Toure
Earth’s a Battlefield
On Searching for Peace from Within
The Women of Monrovia Are Citizens of Heaven

Kulah K. Washington
The Home in Ruin

Vermon Washington
If We Could Love Again

Othello Weh
Monrovia Vagrants
Sit Down
Monrovia Flood

Korto Williams
The Secrets of September

Masnoh Wilson
As If I Never Left

Source Acknowledgments


Named a Notable African Book of 2023 by Brittle Paper

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