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Wednesday, September 27, 2023


Series provides ‘poison’ for penners

The back patio of Montrose bar Poison Girl was packed for the “Frebrurarryr” installment of the Poison Pen Reading Series.

The readings are held on the last Thursday of each month and are hosted by Scott Repass — a man who, on this Thursday evening, was determined to yell “syphilis” into the microphone all night long.

The featured writers for the evening were Steve Wolfe, a member of BooTown and special guest Karyna McGlynn.

The atmosphere was as eclectic as one can expect a Thursday night in Montrose to be: Stringed lights hung low near walls covered with vines, professor-types with untucked Oxford shirts and grizzly beards congregated together, an actual Kool-Aid man statue stood stoically in the background and a creepy giant-sized Cabbage Patch doll watched the audience with her weather-beaten eyes.

Steven Simeone, a creative writing undergraduate who moved to Houston from New York, found his niche through readings like Poison Pen.

“It was [intimidating] the first couple of times I was here, but the writers they bring in are usually so glad to talk to you that the intimidation factor goes away after some time,” Simeone said. “They’re almost exclusively pretty awesome people.”

Simeone heard about Poison Pen by word of mouth, first through creative writing professor Aaron Reynold’s listserv and then from friends who had recommended it.

“There is a great community of undergraduate writers and writers outside of the school program,” Simeone said. “It’s cool to be able to hang out with them.”

Simeone has been interning with Poison Pen for six months now and also works for Glass Mountain, UH’s undergraduate literary magazine. He feels drawn to Poison Pen because of the individuality of the reading series.

“This is going to sound like I’m saying something bad about it, but it’s a bit more crass and a bit more unpolished, but that’s not a bad thing.

“It makes it more intimate, which is the primary thing that I’m looking for during a reading,” Simeone said. “The sterility of some of them can be off-putting, it makes it all seem very academic when I don’t think writing is necessarily about the institution.”

Wolfe opened the reading with eight short pieces. He remarked that he has recently been practicing writing micro fiction as well as “tweet” stories — a genre of fiction distinguished by its brevity.

Wolfe promised the audience he would read his work in less than ten minutes and succeeded.

His piece, “Lunch with the Parents,” was lighthearted and sarcastic as Wolfe read in a calming voice, “Eat the enemy / Defeat him / Mom swallows a tongue sandwich.”

Besides his humor on- and off-stage, Wolfe also read poignant lines that felt even more dramatic through their simplicity, “I’m sorry / I know I always say that / But I am sorry.”

A member from Bootown — a non-profit organization founded by UH alumni that is dedicated to theater and storytelling — took the stage with a piece about a bad dentist experience, which ended with, “Because when you are in miserable pain, there is nothing more comforting than Pauly Shore.”

The wit was evident everywhere, after each reading the host returned yelling “syphilis” a joke that was slightly unclear but somehow became funnier as the evening progressed.

UH alum Fujio Watanabe said he enjoys the readings because of the range of material he gets to hear.

“I come to listen … there are some funny stories, some serious,” Watanabe said.

“I like to hear new things from different writers.”

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