In his poem ‘To a Skylark’, Percy Bysshe Shelley describes the bird of the title as being ‘like a poet hidden / in the light of thought’. This idea, of light as a metaphor for the creative process, inspired the name for this website, as it captures, so simply, much of the essence of writing. Any piece of original writing, while it may take influence and inspiration from a number of sources, comes fundamentally from the thoughts and thought processes of its author; done well, the piece of writing illuminates those original thoughts, providing clarity, order and radiance. A light can also help to guide, and at its best, writing can guide us to greater understanding of an important issue or a person’s feelings or experiences. Finally, Shelley’s original image conjures the idea of light as a symbol of sanctuary, suggesting that the act of writing can be a sanctuary where the poet or writer can take refuge in the process of creating, giving form and fluency to his or her ideas and emotions, and perhaps finding comfort, or release, or renewal in the process.
The Lumen website has been created to showcase some of the outstanding writing being produced by pupils of St Aloysius’ College in Glasgow. For some years now, the SQA has required that each candidate taking National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher English produces a portfolio of original writing, and some of the pieces published here were originally written for inclusion in the portfolio. However, the College’s Department of English has always believed that creative, personal and discursive writing hold an intrinsic value far deeper and more profound than merely being means to a better examination grade, and this is a fundamental part of the ethos of English teaching at the college. From S1 to S6, pupils are helped and encouraged to use extended writing as an opportunity for self-expression and self-reflection, as a way of better communication, as a stimulus to the imagination, and for personal satisfaction and the pleasure of others. The virtues Jesuit education seeks to promote include curiosity, compassion, discernment and eloquence, and there can be no better way to enable a pupil to develop these than through the act of writing.
Lumen is, and will continue to be, a work in progress, evolving to reflect the new ideas and new talent emerging from our pupils’ writing. As such, we have chosen a format for the site that will allow us to update it and add and refresh content easily. The first published version focuses on writing from S3-S6 pupils, but work from the S1-S2 year groups will be added as we continue to develop the site. We are grateful to Tony Harkins, Head of Computing, and Aaron Savage, one of our Advanced Higher Computing students, for their expertise and advice in helping us to build the site.
Lastly, we are honoured that the award-winning novelist and short story writer Martin MacInnes has agreed to write a foreword for Lumen. One of the most thought-provoking and inventive writers currently working in Scotland, Martin has previously visited the College to offer advice and encouragement to Advanced Higher English classes by talking about his own career and methods and guiding pupils through some creative writing exercises. It was a pleasure to be able to show him three very different, but equally excellent, pieces of work by S4 and S5 pupils and to see him respond with genuine admiration and enthusiasm. His foreword will hopefully be an inspiration not just to the authors of those pieces, but to all the young writers published here, and to any others reading this and producing work of their own.