Wales / Cymru
Check out these living, breathing Welsh writers and poets. Menna Elfyn writes almost exclusively in Welsh, but her work is available in translation. The others write either in English or in both English and Welsh. Gwyneth Lewis, Wales’ first National Poet, translates herself.
Wales—better yet, Cymru; that’s its name in Welsh—needed its own page on my website. I’m not Welsh by birth or ancestry. I’m simply Welsh by choice.
I first went there to graduate school to study Word and Image theory on an MA program at St David’s University College—now the University of Wales, Trinity St David—in Lampeter, a small market town in West Wales. The course was good but Wales was better. This is what I wrote about my first encounter with the Welsh landscape in my upcoming book:
I’ve never been the same since. Over the past 30+ years since I first set foot in Wales, I’ve:
• Written countless articles and essays about it (really, I’ve written so many I can’t remember them all);
• Been a guest-blogger on Visit Wales website, creating a 15-week series of blog entries on subjects from the National Poet to Coasteering;
• Have learned to speak Welsh on the Wlpan Course, an intensive Welsh-language boot camp, and written a book called Travels in an Old Tongue about attempting to practice my language skills on a 15-country tour around the world. Unfortunately, I need to take the Wlpan again;
• Led Smith College alumnae trips to Wales;
• Designed and led a Wayfarers Hiking trip in Pembrokeshire;
• Taught writing workshops at Ty Newydd, the National Writers’ Centre, in Llanystumdwy, on the Lleyn Peninsula, in North Wales;
• And was made a Fellow of the University of Wales, Trinity St David, in 2014.
The new big exciting thing is my forthcoming book, The Long Field: A Memoir of Wales and the Presence of Absence.The book is about hiraeth, a Welsh word that doesn’t translate into English. It’s only exact cognate is saudade, in Portuguese. Hiraeth and saudade refer to a deep—and deeply creative—longing for something or someone unattainable or irretrievable, existing only in the imagination beyond place or time. When our hearts alchemize the real into the ideal, yet fail to inform our souls and minds, we feel hiraeth. In old Welsh, the word hiraeth means “long field.” It’s what we seek in the past, yearn for in the future, and invent in the present to placate our long fields, both private and shared. I’ll post details about the book in coming months.
In Fall, 2016, Welsh poet Mab Jones produced and narrated a BBC Radio program on hiraeth for which she interviewed me and many others. It gives a great sense of the shifting nuances of the concept.
In addition to Menna Elfyn, check out these living, breathing Welsh writers and poets. Menna writes almost exclusively in Welsh, but her work is available in translation. The others write in English, or Welsh and English. In the case of Gwyneth Lewis, Wales first National Poet, in 2005, she translates herself.