Youth [Culture] letter from the Editor

Youth [Culture] letter from the Editor

A few years ago I read about the concept of rejuveniles—a term coined by author Christopher Noxon for people who "cultivate tastes and mindsets traditionally associated with those younger than themselves.” In his book Rejuvenile: Kickball, Cartoons, Cupcakes, and the Reinvention of the American Grown-up, Noxon argues that for adults to think and behave in more childlike ways—he defines childlike as “open and creative and flexible”—is not necessarily a bad thing.

There is a troubling idea, lurking around literary criticism, that maturity must equal a dour sort of sternness (or in some cases plain meanness). That to be “cutting” and “austere” is the ultimate incarnation of capital-C Critic or capital-A Author instead of a personality type most of us try to avoid at parties. We tend to equate harshness with honesty. We have become sceptical of enthusiasm—for books, for poetry, for culture—and even dismiss it as childish. As if hate is a more mature or measured or somehow less biased emotion than love. As if we’re not smart, curious people capable of adoring something rigorously and with a complexity that can acknowledge and examine flaws. As David Lavery, writing on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, challenged: it “need not be a swoon.”

I don’t want to live in a world where we’re walking around with permanently constipated-looking faces because our definition of what it means to be a Grown Up involves suppressing all earnest excitement in order to gain social and professional credibility. I’m not suggesting that we go around full-on Care Bear Staring rainbow hearts, cupcakes and stars at all things at all times (even the Care Bears, whose one job it is to REALLY CARE, save up the truly intense glittering love beams for when they really mean it). Rather, I argue that adults—as well as children—should be allowed to get fired up about all manner of things (not just meetings, numbers, and Business) with impunity. (I’ll personally take RMF—Resting Muppet Face—and sudden Kermit-like flails over bottled-up restraint any day).

For this issue I commissioned and put out an open call to poets (of a variety of ages and backgrounds and aesthetics) to “shirk” adult responsibility and experiment, to tap into those “youthful” feelings of infiniteness, earnestness, urgency, safety, possibility (and, of course, angst).

The result: I have a crush on every single poem (and poet) in this issue. My particular childhood featured (as I imagine many childhoods do) a lot of darkness, heartbreak, and tragedy, but it had just as much silliness, hilarity, and joy. The poems and essays—narrative, visual, experimental, and formal—in the pages that follow reflect such a spectrum. I’m so pleased to share the Youth Culture issue with the whole class, like a truly giant Cheese String, or, if you prefer, an enormous cherry Pull ‘n’ Peel Twizzler.

—Cynara Geissler, Guest Editor

Take a glance at the issue contents hereSubscribe to get your copy, or visit your local magazine retailer.