New York Welsh hosts a monthly meet-up at The Liberty NYC in Manhattan, New York City. In September, they are joined by Pamela Petro (Nonfiction/Graphic Novels & Comics, MFA Writing Faculty), author of The Long Field, Wales and the Presence of Absence, a Memoir. For readers of H Is for Hawk, an intimate memoir of belonging and loss and a mesmerizing travelogue through the landscapes and language of Wales.
Hiraeth is a Welsh word that’s famously hard to translate. Literally, it can mean “long field” but generally translates into English, inadequately, as “homesickness.” At heart, hiraeth suggests something like a bone-deep longing for an irretrievable place, person, or time—an acute awareness of the presence of absence.
In The Long Field, Pamela Petro braids essential hiraeth stories of Wales with tales from her own life—as an American who found an ancient home in Wales, as a gay woman, as the survivor of a terrible Amtrak train crash, and as the daughter of a parent with dementia. Through the pull and tangle of these stories and her travels throughout Wales, hiraeth takes on radical new meanings. There is traditional hiraeth of place and home, but also queer hiraeth; and hiraeth triggered by technology, immigration, ecological crises, and our new divisive politics. On this journey, the notion begins to morph from a uniquely Welsh experience to a universal human condition, from deep longing to the creative responses to loss that Petro sees as the genius of Welsh culture. It becomes a tool to understand ourselves in our time.