In Defense of Young Artists

By Carly Fowler

Neil Hilborn reading “The Future”

Everyone has to start somewhere, yet there is a certain disdain for young creators. We turn our noses up at the first attempts made by anyone still in their twenties or younger. Reviews often read, “Amateurish,” or “Juvenile,” without ever explaining what makes the content deserving of such harsh criticism other than that the artist is of a young age. Of course, by taking this stance we are forgetting the young artists that have solidified the literary canon, such as S.E Hinton who wrote The Outsiders when she was just eighteen, and Mary Shelley who crafted Frankenstein when she was nineteen. We are likely to let potential classics go unnoticed if we continue to disregard work created by a younger generation.

Meggie Royer is a poet that has found fame through social media. Her poems about the various hardships that tear people down have comforted hundreds of readers. She built herself a brand on the micro-blogging platform Tumblr before publishing her first collection of poems, Survival Stories, at nineteen. Royer also went on to publish a chapbook later on in 2013, Healing Old Wounds With New Stitches. It is split into two sections: the first half are poems with the theme of pain and loss while the second half are poems about recovery and survival. As of 2015, both of her published works have an average rating of 4.3 out of 5 on Goodreads. The negative reviews once again put her down for her age and inexperience but fail to give examples of what they find unappealing about the poetry. The good news is that this has not beaten the fighting spirit out of Royer, who is currently twenty and using the money she makes from her books to fund her education. Her newest adventure involves the creation of a literary magazine that aims to empower female survivors of abuse.

One of Royer’s most popular poems was inspired by another young poet. You might have seen Neil Hilborn on the Button Poetry YouTube channel. A lot of his poetry is comedic, such as “Mating Habits of the North American Hipster.” However, it was a personal piece that put him the spotlight, both literally and figuratively. On stage, for the Rustbelt Poetry Slam of 2013, he delivered a poem about being in love while battling OCD. This performance of his piece simply titled “OCD” went viral shortly after it was uploaded to YouTube. He powerfully describes how he drove his girlfriend away with the tics that accompany OCD. Slam poetry is where young artists thrive but they are often ignored by their older peers. Even though Hilborn is twenty-six now, he is still a fresh face in the sea of middle-aged writers and should be welcomed to the literary community for his talent.

Unfortunately, other artists also receive this age-related backlash. Xavier Dolan, a French-Canadian film maker, just had his newest film Mommy trump Oscar-nominated pictures such as Boyhood at the Cannes Film Festival. Dolan’s films tell the stories that are not specific to his generation but revolve around the universal troubles that teenagers and young adults. As of 2015, Dolan is a twenty-five-years-old. What is most interesting to me is that no one will deny Dolan’s talent when it comes to directing but the criticism he does face is often targeted at his writing. Mommy is Dolan’s fifth film and his fourth to debut at Cannes. His first movie, I Killed My Mother, received an eight-minute standing ovation. At that time, he was a nineteen-year-old who had wrote, directed, and starred in a production that would go on to win a slew of awards.

Not every creation will be a winner. Although Eragon was a critical success, earning a movie adaptation when its author, Christopher Paolini, was only twenty-three, it did not hold up after the initial hype died down. Other authors also make mistakes and often churn out “bad books.” This should not detract from the creators who are looking to follow their dreams before they have even graduated college. Instead of ignoring any attempt to break into the world, we should applaud young artists who excel in a world that does not cater to them.

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