Members of Houston’s writing community — young adults, UH creative writing students and professors — all gathered together Friday at Brazos Bookstore for the final installment of the “Gulf Coast Reading Series.”
The event was lively and sad all at once as readers Zach Bean, Ian Stansel and Rebecca Wadlinger said their goodbyes to Gulf Coast, a journal of literature and fine arts founded in 1986 within the English department at UH.
Gulf Coast intern Randall Tyrone reflected on what literary journal has provided him throughout his semesters at UH.
“My experience at Gulf Coast has been nothing short of amazing,” Tyrone said. “I’ve not only learned countless skills from Ian and Becca, but they showed me how the skills I already knew could be utilized in a literature centered work environment.”
Bean, Glass Mountain graduate advisor and creative writing and literature doctoral student who graduates this May, opened the reading with his fiction.
Tyrone said that he enjoyed the unexpected subject matter of Bean’s piece as well as the balance between the dark and light tone.
“The waitress and the hitchhiker that they come across shape how the narrator views humanity,” Tyrone said. “He basically loses hope, but as he spends more time with the hitchhiker and his mom, he begins to gain the ability to properly address his feelings about his mother’s imminent death.”
“The story was dark but had its humorous moments between the waitress, hitchhiker and mom.”
Brazos Bookstore was the perfect setting for the reading because of its history and local flavor, which created an authentic literary ambiance compared to more commercial bookstores.
Wadlinger, Gulf Coast managing and doctoral student read a variety of poems including “Scenes with Gertrude” and “A Highly Pleasurable Feeling.”
Her pieces were clever and hilarious with simple, but poignant language as seen in one of the sections from “Scenes with Gertrude” where the narrator muses on being in love with Gertrude Stein.
Wadlinger created a whimsical atmosphere with her sparse but beautiful language.
Tyrone reflected on the guidance Wadlinger has provided him during his Gulf Coast internship.
“Becca read some of my writings and made some great suggestions on how to improve. Needless to say that was exceptionally helpful in my growth as a writer and I can’t thank her enough for that.”
After Wadlinger read, the event closed with Stansel’s piece about a mom, a small town and a moth-man.
Stansel is the Gulf Coast editor-in-chief and a fifth-year doctoral candidate who recently passed his dissertation.
Stansel’s story was longer than the rest and a perfect ending to the night because of his subject matter — the supernatural, science, relationships and moth-man.
He had entertaining lines in between the seriousness, similar to Bean’s style, with quick but thoughtful images, “Why the voice of God when we have Nina Simone and Jeff Buckley?”
He ended his piece with uncertainty, never actually establishing if the moth-man was real, but instead left the audience to linger on the impressions that his words gave them.
“It’s always a treat to listen to mentors and friends present their art to the public, but that reading kind of marked the end of the Ian and Becca Gulf Coast era,” Tyrone said.
“Although that is a little depressing, it does signify that they are moving on to continue their success.”