The sound of a ukulele echoed through an isolated room in Ivory Tower Friday evening.
Junior Behram Riar, a business major, started off the Halloween-themed open mic night, jointly sponsored by the GW Review and Wooden Teeth, jamming on the Hawaiian instrument.
Riar serenaded the audience with the twang of his ukulele, playing one original tune and borrowing the song, “You Always Hurt the One You Love” from the Mills Brothers.
First to read was Emily Taylor, a senior majoring in engineering. Taylor read a section titled “House Fear” from the Robert Frost poem “The Hill Wife,” a story of a housewife’s loneliness and detached departure from her humble married life.
Guests were invited to read selections for either their own works or to borrow a literary idol’s words for the night.
Taylor, a two-year member of Wooden Teeth, also serves as the web and publicity editor for the literary magazine.
Junior English major Justin Ritchie read “Undertaker,” by Patricia Smith. The poem depicts the solitary and dangerous lives of youth who fall prey to the allure of gang violence, and the effect this has on their heartbroken and desperate mothers.
“When a bullet enters the brain, the head explodes. I can think of no softer warning for the mothers, who sit doubled before my desk, knotting their smooth brown hands, and begging, fix my boy, fix my boy,” reads the opening stanza from the slam poet’s dramatic piece.
Freshman and new member of Wooden Teeth, Danny Dunitz chose to read his own poem, titled, “In the Pale Light of the Moon.”
Dunitz, far from a newcomer to the literature scene, gained experience serving as one of the senior editors for his high school’s literature review.
“I wanted to be in Wooden Teeth because I like the idea of reading your peers’ work, like people you know,” Dunitz said.
The event itself has become a staple on the campus literary scene’s social calendar.
“We do a mic night every semester. We try to scheme it around a holiday,” said Irene Gutleber, communication director of Wooden Teeth. “Last semester we had a show on Valentine’s Day, and people recited poems about love and it was lovely.”
This semester’s Halloween theme brought guests out in elaborate costumes, creating a parade of disguise, as fairies and monsters signed up one at a time to read selections of poetry to the small, but excited audience. Candy and carved pumpkins decorated the table, dotting the common room with a touch of character for the annual tradition.
While the event has become a tradition, it’s origins are relatively unknown.
“I’m not exactly sure how or when the event started, but every year since I came to GW the GW Review and Wooden Teeth have had a reading for Halloween,” senior English major Laura O’Dea, Wooden Teeth’s editor in chief, said.
While many involved with the magazine note that the first publication of Wooden Teeth was in 1977, under the name Rock Creek Review, not many are exactly sure when Wooden Teeth and GW Review began co-hosting the open mic nights.
“Both of our magazines work to promote the arts at GW, and open mic nights are another platform where students can read and share their work,” O’Dea said.
Wooden Teeth usually publishes work by GW students and faculty, while GW Review publishes work from artists outside of Foggy Bottom.
GW Review editor Kate Lu explained the literary magazine’s different approach to providing literature on campus.
“I think it’s good for students to have exposure to outside literature, especially students here who are writers. It’s good for them to have experience evaluating work that is on a professional level,” Lu said.