Those who had the pleasure of attending Sunset Press’s open mic on Friday night at the Horn Gallery were given an array of performances that showcased many talented writers. Sunset Press is a student-run literary publication that selects writers each year from the student body to publish. The process takes a year to complete, as writers’ pieces are workshopped before they’re published in chapbooks in the spring. I was fortunate enough to listen to some of the pieces that the writers of 2022-23 have been working so hard on. During the open mic night, those who were not part of Sunset Press were also given the opportunity to volunteer their own writing pieces and had the chance to read aloud personal selections. It was great being able to hear a variety of stories, prose and poems from so many aspiring writers.
Phoebe Houser ’24, who is one of Sunset’s writers for the year, read parts of her piece titled “Great Aunt Ginger,” which was split into two scenes. Houser read a small portion of the beginning of her story that detailed how a young girl deals with the complicated relationship between her and her aunt. Houser, in an interview with the Collegian, said she “tripped over [her] words” but then added, “that’s just me, that’s what I do.” Houser explained that her reading was very easy to digest, saying “you’re supposed to read within three minutes, so it was an easy piece to have a natural cutoff point.” It was a pleasure being able to listen to Houser get vulnerable with the audience, and it was moving to hear her speak life into the story that she has been working on since September.
Another Sunset writer, Bea Bolongaita ’25, read her piece “An Econ Major tried to f— my boyfriend” to get into the spirit of Valentine’s Day just around the corner. It was an amazing poem and one of my favorite pieces of the night. One writer read a poem that also discussed love and relationships, alluding to Helen of Troy in order to discuss the perils and tragedy of losing the one you love. Both poems grappled with topics of desire and relationships in different ways, but each was able to get its message across to the audience in the room successfully.
As I sat in the audience at the Horn Gallery, I was moved not just by the work being read, but by the writers who were reading. Whether they were pulling from pain or joy, laughter or deep sadness, each of the writers were able to showcase real emotion and moved all those in the audience. Another one of the readers of the night was Alex Aureden ’25, one of Sunset’s writers who read their poems grappling with loss and grief. The poems were unlike Bolongaitia’s previous love poems, but the message was equally as captivating. Aureden spoke not just of love but of the pain one feels when they have lost a loved one. The reading was both heart-rending and all too familiar as I found myself remembering my own lost loved ones.
One of Sunset’s Editors-in-Chief, Micah Kim ’23, shared similar high praise for the Horn event on Friday. “My personal favorite part of it was watching each writer sink into the groove of their piece as they read it aloud; it felt like the room was warping around them,” he wrote in an email to the Collegian. One of the many things I admire about the Sunset writers is the message behind each of their pieces. While I listened to the writers who shared their work, it was apparent that they each delved deep into their emotions to talk about important issues.
Kim shared how enthusiastic he was about the work that each of the writers are doing and urged students to be on the lookout for more events from Sunset in the future.