Good writing and art seem to come from elsewhere, from a place we only ever catch glimpses of, a place that may not be a perfect or ideal world by any means but one in which things seem better lit, clearer, more strikingly themselves.
Whether or not we dedicate ourselves to writing or art, at different times in our lives many of us have the experience of being able to see into that elsewhere, even for a short time. Sometimes great joy gives us that extended vision; more often it is loss, or sorrow or some other less welcome emotion that shifts us from our usual place and allows us to see more than we might in our normal routine.
For writers, the hope is that this seeing beyond our immediate limits can be made to happen during the process of writing itself, that something of it can be brought back to the place we live. For most of us, it’s a tall order, and everything from laziness to the fear of failure is drafted in to explain why we so seldom even try.
The writing that has come from the workshops in St. Senan’s Hospital in Enniscorthy (where I was lucky enough to pay a brief visit earlier this year) is full of the understanding that there are parts of our lives – hugely significant parts – that so often go unremarked and unreported. There is also an understanding that even an occasional attempt to ‘look beyond’ can have huge effects on how we feel about the world we live in. That the writers here do not necessarily think of themselves as writers has proved to be no obstacle to their desire to travel and report, to stand outside of themselves and see.
Of course, good writing is not only a travelling outwards but also a journeying inwards. The result becomes universal only if the writer is prepared to render personal vision with as much accuracy, love and courage as can be summoned in the moment.
The work collected in this publication is both a farewell to St. Senan’s Hospital and to the community of people who met and made things together there. It is a reminder of the power of writing to brighten our lives. It suggests that if art and writing do not confer meaning then certainly they give us a language to express it.
I am delighted to see this book published, celebrating as it does the achievement of all who embarked on the creative journey at St. Senan’s, a journey that, I have no doubt, is far from over for many of them.