Oliver Egger ’23 will host a release event at Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore on Thursday, Sept. 29 at 5 p.m., to celebrate the publication of “The Route 9 Anthology,” a collection of writing by Wesleyan students, faculty, and Middletown residents. The event will begin with a panel featuring Egger, Associate Professor of the Practice in Creative Writing Douglas Martin, Old Saybrook poet laureate Patricia O’Brien, and Portland poet laureate Naji Chester-Payne. Following the panel, there will be a reading where “Route 9” contributors are encouraged to share their pieces from the anthology. For Egger, the release of the anthology has been a long time coming.
“When I came here my freshman year, I was really interested in literary magazines on campus but also in seeing how we could connect with the Middletown community,” Egger said. “I wanted to start a magazine, not necessarily a book, called the Route 9 magazine, and the idea is that it would be showcasing at least one of every member of our community: faculty, staff, students, and residents. I started working on it that spring, brainstorming and talking to people.”
Just as Egger began to gain momentum with the project, COVID-19 hit, and he was forced to put the anthology on pause. After studying remotely during his sophomore year, Egger returned to campus last fall and started Route 9, a Middletown literary collective that publishes the student magazines The Lavender and Pre-Owned, Good Condition. It wasn’t until the winter of his junior year that Egger began reaching out to people in earnest about contributing to the anthology.
“It was a slow process of emailing a bunch of people in Middletown, emailing the art centers and the libraries, and talking a lot to Suzanna [Tamminen], the editor-in-chief of Wesleyan University Press, about which writers could best represent our community,” Egger told The Argus. “I pitched the idea to Suzanna and she offered to print it through Wesleyan University Press.”
Chester-Payne expressed his excitement about the release event and his inclusion in the anthology.
“I’ve done a lot of events in town, [and] this is another notch, another experience for me,” Payne said in an interview with The Argus. “It’s another way for me to get my poetry out there, through this book. And to meet other writers, that’s also cool. Since I’m new to the poetry scene, I’m finally getting to know more poets than just me.”
Jane Hollander ’23, a poetry editor of The Lavender and Route 9 contributor, reflected on the value of the anthology and the release event to build community between Wesleyan students, faculty, and Middlesex County residents.
“I’m so excited for the people to see the breadth of work in the anthology, from so many talented students, faculty, and community members,” Hollander said. “Often, the literary scene at Wes feels quite insular, and the anthology pushes against that notion. I think the release event, as well as the second release event at the Buttonwood Tree in October, will ensure that the anthology is not only symbolic of a more unified literary community but actually helps bring people together.”
As the editor and curator of the anthology, Egger echoed Hollander’s sentiment.
“I’ve been working on this project for so long,” Egger explained. “I feel like the event will be a really nice culmination of this work. I’m so excited to finally meet a lot of contributors in person. I’ve been working with them—editing, compiling, convincing them to submit—but I’ve never met with them because we’ve just done everything remotely. I’m really excited to see them and be able to celebrate with them in space and see the people whose voices this book is trying to showcase.”
In addition to the anthology release event on Sept. 29, the Route 9 Literary Collective is hosting an array of upcoming events that are not to be missed.
On Oct. 11, there will be an open mic poetry night at RJ Julia where Wesleyan students and Middletown residents are welcome to share their work. The following week, on Oct. 18, there will be a second release event at the Buttonwood Tree at 6 p.m. to celebrate the publication of “The Route 9 Anthology.” The event will feature readings by English Department Teaching Fellow A. H. Jerriod Avant, followed by anthology contributors and an open mic. Come out and support Middletown’s vibrant artistic community at any one of these literary events!
Ben Togut can be reached at email@example.com.