After months of planning and manufacturing, Route 9 Literary Collective released the first issue of The Lavender, their student poetry and prose magazine, at a launch party in Espwesso on Tuesday night. Led by Editor-in-Chief Oliver Egger ’23, the multifaceted project represents a new chapter for the University’s creative scene. The creators hope to synthesize a range of student and community work into physical pages and person-to-person interaction.
The first thing I noticed as I walked into The Lavender’s launch and read party, besides the sheer volume of magazine copies placed all over the cafe, were the people. Poets, writers and visual artists filled the space, far surpassing the magazine’s editorial board gathered towards the podium. Since its inception by Egger, the Route 9 Collective has strived to create such a vibrant community, with The Lavender embodying the student-centric branch of that goal.
“I’ve been writing poetry since I was young,” Egger said. “It has always been a space of community, of real calm and joy for me. It’s so much fun interacting with poets, talking, working together and creating beautiful art together, so I think when I got to Wesleyan my first year I was very disappointed with the literary scene. .
While Egger recognized the existing high-quality output of campus publications such as The Ankh, he saw an open space to contribute even more to the literary community. With community outreach in mind, Egger sought an outlet that would be well supported by his creative abilities while bringing together contributors from the University and beyond.
“I think the way people should do community activism is to ask, ‘What are your strengths?’ », Continued Egger. “I know my strengths will not lie in the grassroots organization in the traditional way; it’s not what I do best. So I thought the way I can be more socially involved is to really bring in what I love and try to build community around literature.
One of the keys to unlocking this expanded community was the physical, which has escaped any kind of creative work since the onset of COVID-19. Egger co-founded Route 9 during the unfortunate month of February 2020, almost predicting the void of person-to-person interaction to follow. His emphasis on physicality nonetheless began before the pandemic, when he recognized the lack of anything palpable to unite the disparate creative energies of the University’s artistically rich campus.
“Print is essential for people to engage in literature on a college campus, [especially since] we are a small college, ”continued Egger. “It’s what creates the interaction, and it’s what creates the community conversations. And that’s even more important for something like poetry where people naturally don’t care. It’s poetry. It is the most neglected art form in the world. So you really have to spread it, make it beautiful, make it an event, and you can only do that through print.
Behind the magazine’s output, a strong group of editors, including editor-in-chief Immi Shearmur ’24, share Egger’s emphasis on materiality as a means of building community. Arriving at the University amid pandemic isolation precautions, Shearmur said his willingness to rekindle physical connections had informed his interest in the magazine.
“What I’m learning more and more is that I think a lot of the things that make Wesleyan so special have been moved because of COVID,” Shearmur explained. “I think Wesleyan is really proud of a thriving community of writers… so it’s really important that we put these things back in place so that artists have a way to come together and create these communities that have been depleted.”
The importance of linking creativity to printed pages became evident as soon as I picked up the first issue of The Lavender. Flipping through the lavender-colored cover of the booklet (a reference to the University’s first official color, which was changed to current cardinal red in 1884) revealed an intriguing creative topography of the campus, with poetry, prose , photographs and illustrations of students from all grades. Poems in various layouts have given way to eclectic photographs and drawings of characters, landscapes and anatomy, all in conversation with one another while retaining individual space.
With the ambition to reinvigorate the literary spirit of an entire campus through these pages, The Lavender’s editorial team faced understandable technical challenges along the way.
“We had a few fiascos throughout the design process, like fighting Adobe InDesign, fighting the printer, but I feel like we came out victorious,” explained editor Annie Wendorf ’23 . “It’s almost better this way. It’s nice to do things with your hands and then feel the rewards come to life before your eyes. Especially with the book, because you see the physical process of printing each page, then folding and binding it, then flipping through it. It is the most satisfying thing in the world.
The impact of the physical passbook was well complemented by its in-person release event at the recently reopened Espwesso. Reading their work to a room full of students, the magazine’s contributors brought the printed text to life, making sure to call out the pages their pieces were presented on before they started so everyone could follow along. As the crowd browsed pages rich in experience and perspective before listening intently to the speakers, cultural engagement could be heard in action. It soon became clear that this type of interaction could only happen in a physical setting, on pages meant to be read aloud, shared, and re-read.
As successful as The Lavender and the accompanying release event have been in bringing campus creativity to life, they represent only the beginning of the Route 9 Collective. From chapbooks to an anthology that will bring together the voices of faculty, Staff, students and residents of Middletown in one place, the collective looks at future creative possibilities with an entrepreneurial spirit. With such projects underway and a new issue of The Lavender already accepting submissions, the group has laid a solid foundation for continued expanding creativity. As all of the Route 9 team have pointed out, however, it is up to the community to make the project a reality. The Lavande editorial team encourages submissions to the collective’s projects via their website.
“I’m really proud of the people who have joined this club and the people who care,” Egger said. “It’s amazing to see people believe and care. It’s hard to start something new. We have no base, so I am very proud of it. Seeing how engaged people are in the first issue, from there I think we can create something beautiful that will connect with the students at Wesleyan.
Follow route 9 on Instagram. Do not hesitate to contact Oliver Egger [email protected] with questions or project proposals.
Aiden Malanaphy can be contacted at [email protected]