The Long Field burrows deep into the Welsh countryside to tell how this small country became a big part of an American writer's life. Petro, author of Travels in an Old Tongue, twines her story around that of Wales by viewing both through the lens of hiraeth, a quintessential Welsh word famously hard to translate. It literally means "long field," but is also more than the English approximation of "homesickness." It's a name for the bone-deep longing felt for someone or something – a home, culture, language, a younger self – that you've lost or left behind. Hiraeth is embodied by Arthur, King of the Once and Future, but never the Present. It is, above all, an acknowledgement of the presence of absence in our lives. The Long Field braids the hiraeth Petro has experienced personally – as an American who pines for Wales; as a gay woman in a same-sex relationship; as the survivor of a horrific train crash; as the daughter of a parent with dementia – into the essential hiraeth stories of Wales. Along the way Petro looks at hiraeth in traditional and radically new ways: queer hiraeth, the hiraeth of technology, ancestry, minorities, the environment, and politics in the age of Brexit and Trump. Petro's hiraeth is not only an awareness of loss and longing but also a creative response to absence and loss, which she sees as the genius of Welsh culture and the wellspring of all creativity.
Pamela Petro is the author of three previous creative nonfiction books, including Travels in an Old Tongue: Touring the World Speaking Welsh. She is a Fellow at the University of Wales, Trinity St David, where she directs the Dylan Thomas Summer School in Creative Writing. Pamela is also a photographer and word-and-image artist. She teaches creative nonfiction and graphic novel to undergraduate and postgraduate students in the U.S., and holds a BA from Brown University and an MA from the University of Wales.
"An absorbing meditation on the meaning of home."
– Sunday Telegraph Best Travel Books of the Year
"An exquisite unfolding of the truths of language and the human heart."
– Jay Griffiths
"Petro writes with passion and precision in a style that is both intimate and profound. There's an old saying in Welsh – dechrau wrth dy draed; it means "start with your feet" – that originally referred to the moving of stones from a field. Here Petro digs into the landscape of Wales and that of her own life in America to unearth not stones, but deep truths with which she surprises and delights the reader."
– Menna Elfyn
"In its grace and elegance, its interlaced leitmotifs and shapely tendrils, The Long Field is a literary Celtic knot of quite exquisite power."
– Mike Parker
"Both playful and serious, this memoir looks deep into the long field that separates and unites us, placing it squarely in a geography of love."
– Gwyneth Lewis
"Not since Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek have I felt so involved, as a reader, to 'finding out what it all means.' This is a beautifully written, un-put-downable book about language, love, and being alive, here, now."
– Gillian Clarke, former National Poet of Wales
"The book has an ageless energy that propels it forward and keeps the narrative exciting and energised. Petro is a master at pacing her prose, knows where the beat must fall, and how far to push an illusion or an inspired insight."
– Chris Moss, New Welsh Review
"The Long Field is a brilliant blend of travelogue, memoir, and cultural meditation."
– Michael Lowenthal, author of Charity Girl
"[...] full of intimate truth and insight."
– Hester Caplan, author of The Edge of Marriage
"[...] an essential inquiry into our understanding of culture, place, and love."
– Jane Brox, author of Brilliant
"[...] a triumph."
– David Elliott, author of Bull