Editor's Letter: On Names and New Beginnings
Brandon Kim, Founder
In a scene in the film Dead Poets Society, Todd Anderson, a quiet boy attending the conservative Welton Academy, spends the evening hours writing and rewriting a poem for his English class, taught by the enigmatic Mr. Keating. The problem is, as so many of us writers can attest to, nothing ever seems quite right - and so Todd, frustrated, tears up the sheet of paper and goes to bed.
The next day, when Todd admits that he hasn’t done the assignment, Keating responds by quoting Walt Whitman: “I sound my barbaric yawp over the rooftops of the world.” He encourages the reluctant Todd to follow Whitman’s example, and the result - a series of progressively louder yawps, followed by a spontaneous, spoken-word soliloquy - is one of the greatest scenes in the history of cinema.
It is also the inspiration for the name of this journal.
The idea of establishing YAWP first wormed its way into my head about a week into the new academic year. Less than a month prior, I had attended a writing conference at Kenyon College, and that experience, with its whirlwind of writing prompts and readings and discussions with other people who like writing, had filled me with bright-eyed enthusiasm for a project I felt would be the perfect way of replicating that same spirit of writerly camaraderie.
Of course I would need help. Over the next couple of weeks, I managed to find two fellow student-writers who were willing to commit to putting together this literary journal. These two are, of course, my fellow editors on this editorial team: Yuhki Hirano and Aliah Fabros. We came together for meetings. We discussed ideas over email. And then -
- we stopped. We got overwhelmed by homework, and tests, and the demands of high school life. YAWP lay on the backburner for the better part of three months.
Somewhere in a classroom halfway up a building in Gambier, Ohio, a mentor told me something that I do believe I’ll remember for the rest of my life. It is, in short, to savor every bit of writing time you get, because you’ll never know when you can write again.
In this sense, high school is often the bane of an adolescent poet, author, or essayist’s existence. For a good nine months, it seems, we are asked to put down the writer’s pen and pick up the academic’s pencil. The start of the new school year typically does not portend good fortune, for a young, emerging writer attempting to balance their literary interests with grades. It certainly didn’t for us.
But here’s another thing about being a young writer: your writing is constantly evolving. It is often the youngest who are the boldest; who offer the most creativity. We are, after all, still being defined as human beings. Writing is but an extension of ourselves, and as we mature and change colors with the seasons, so do the works we produce.
This is a beautiful thing, in a world of increasingly diverse voices.
All of which, of course, brings us back to the name of our journal: YAWP. About a month ago, we got back to working on this collection of writing. The ideas and the passion never really died, after all - it was just put on hiatus.
And the first thing we did, in that spirit of renewal, was change the name.
The original name for this publication was actually Candid Lit, something that I think indicates the work we initially wanted to curate. We wanted candid literature - literature that is new, and genuine, and is truly reflective of our peers.
I think YAWP, though, works better. Because young writing is more than just candid, or novel. It is something that comes from one’s innermost depths. It is a guttural, barbaric thing. It is a shout, a yawp, that is sounded over every rooftop of the world, as if to say “I am here, and there is nothing you can do about it.”