By Abby Wargo
This Valentine’s Day, Washington College students celebrated the sexy side of literature.
The Erotic Literature Reading, sponsored by Writers’ Union, took place on the porch at the Rose O’Neill Literary House last Friday, Feb. 14 at 7 p.m.
Students read work by a variety of writers, including Danez Smith, Diannely Antigua, Charles Bukowski, J. R. R. Tolkien, and James Joyce. The event was an open mic, and there was a selection of poems available for people to read if they did not come with something prepared.
Writers’ Union Vice President and junior Justin Nash described the essence of the event.
“Really, it’s just a bunch of people getting together and sharing the most loving, most sexual, kinkiest writing you can find. Nothing dismantles the idea that literature is some stuck up good ole boys club faster,” he said. “Besides, what better time than Valentine’s day to be slightly uncomfortable in a room full of friends and strangers?”
Nash kicked off the reading with the poem “On Men, Their Bodies” by Marie Howe, which is “affectionately referred to as the penis poem.”
Although the event celebrated erotic and romantic literature in all its forms, some more canonical pieces were read, including “Love Song” by Charles Bukowski, read by junior Victoria Gill.
“If you don’t know who Charles Bukowski is, he’s just a crusty old man, and that’s all you need to know,” she said as a preface to reading.
The crowd was supportive, cheering and clapping when anyone went up to the podium to read.
There was a lot of laughter throughout as students read works usually considered not safe for work.
Not everyone read erotic work; some chose more romantically motivated poems. Sophomore Melissa DeFrancesco read “Song of Beren and Lúthien” by Tolkien, and sophomore Liz Hay read “I Traveled Among Unknown Men” by William Wordsworth.
DeFrancesco prefaced her reading with information about her selection.
“It’s loosely based on the relationship between him and his wife. It’s less erotic, more romantic, but it’s one of my favorites,” she said.
Writers’ Union President and junior MacKenzie Brady closed out the event by reading “Ode to Masturbation” by Ocean Vuong.
This is the event’s second year as sponsored by Writers’ Union.
“A big part of what MacKenzie and I focus on with Writers’ Union and its programming is the idea that writing and literature are for everyone. It’s not just a club of stodgy white guys — most of whom are dead,” Nash said. “The Erotic Literature Reading is an event we inherited from Poetry Club after it dissolved, but it was one we wanted to keep going because we thought it exemplified that goal really well.”
Overall, the event proved to be enjoyable for all involved.
“I think the event was a big success. There were 20 or 25 people in attendance, and that’s pretty typical for our routine events — though we’d always love more. No matter who came, it was pretty clear that everyone in attendance had a great time, and that’s all we’re every really aiming for,” Nash said.
Writers’ Union’s next major event, Not Your Professor’s Poetry, will be at Fountain Park in downtown Chestertown on April 24 at 7 p.m. Celebrated contemporary poets Danez Smith, Diannely Antigua, and Joseph Osmundson will be reading from their work. The event is free.