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Staff editor Jennifer Rohrbach has been published on Read her awesome analysis here!

Reflections on AWP 2016

From March 31 to April 2, the conference for Associated Writers and Writing Programs wasIMG_4611 held in Los Angeles, California. AWP is a massive conference that joins editors, writers, teachers, and publishers, from students through veterans of the occupation. More than 12,000 people gather for over 550 readings and panels. Widener’s Creative Writing department was able to attend and brought four students along for the ride this year.

Before coming to AWP, I’d attended FUSE, a national conference for undergraduate student editors. That conference was quite different, and I knew it would be, because it was much smaller-scale and much more tailored specifically to student editors of literary journals. FUSE had also been held at Widener this past fall, so I didn’t even have to travel for that conference. For AWP, I literally crossed the county.

IMG_4594At AWP, there was a FUSE caucus for students both who had attended FUSE and who were interested in attending future FUSE forums. The caucus helped unite undergraduate student editors and students who had become old friends at this point. Undergraduate student editors interested in FUSE should check out their website here! Additionally, FUSE members took turns tabling in the book fair, a huge expo for creative writers. Though the conference was a business venture, being able to run a table made me feel like I was even more a part of AWP.

Though I knew AWP was going to be massive and with a lot more to do and see than FUSE, I was unprepared for the size of the book fair. That blew my mind. There had to be a thousand vendors packed into one room—literary journals, MFA programs, the literary journals of MFA programs and so on. There were big presses, like Tinhouse Books and Penguin Random House, and small presses, like Cactus Heart. The New York Times had a stand, as did the MLA. My favorite part of the conference had to be the massive bookfair. I spent hours in that room at a time.


While in the bookfair I got to discuss people’s literary journals, what people recommended, and how their programs differed than other places. I saw the moderator for a panel I’d attended about writing diverse characters. She and I struck up conversation, and I was able to follow up with her about what she’d discussed.

It was exciting to talk to people from other writing backgrounds as I explored the convention center. It was also wonderful to see so many writers in one place. As one Widener student noted, writers are such versatile and diverse people—you see all types.

Overall, this conference was larger than life. Besides being incredibly informative, it was also incredibly fun! If fellow student editors and writers are interested in attending, talk to your professors and see if there is a way. Next year, AWP will be in Washington, D. C., which is much closer to Widener than California, so you can bet we’ll be there again.

To learn more about AWP, check out their website here.

To read more in-depth about my AWP reflection, including some of the panels I attended and speakers I saw, click here.

Written by Kelsey Styles, ’17

Why Banned Books Matter to You

I was first presented with the concept of censorship in my freshman year of high school with my English instructor’s overenthusiastic ‘celebration’ of Banned Books Week.
In the fourth week of class, I remember walking to my desk to the sound of Mrs. Burrows’ marker squeaking against the whiteboard as she feverishly wrote out the titles of five books: The Great Gatsby, 1984, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, To Kill a Mockingbird and Junie B. Jones. Upon turning around, she asked the class what these books had in common, a question met by a combination of blank stares.

She tried a second time. “What is this week a celebration of?” Once again, she received deafening silence in response. Shaking her head, she scrawled the word ‘censorship’ on the board and thus began a semester long unit centered on the theme of censorship throughout literature and history.

Perhaps due to my own ignorance, and in part due to my school system’s previous lack of focus on the topic, censorship in first-world countries was a new concept to me. I knew of course that it existed throughout the world in the form of government oppression for the purposes of assuring no anti-political media was being fed to the public or no irreligious ideas were being spread in conservative countries. I never imagined, however, that censorship was an issue in America—an issue that is very much a concern today.

The notion that a writer armed with nothing more than an idea and pen could serve as such as a powerful weapon is a curious one. What is it about the written word that so frightens us, compelling governments to implement laws banning the products of an author’s ambition—the compilation of ideas written on the backs of coffeehouse napkins, stories etched into journals with the hope that someday, those very stories would be “enough” to really touch someone in the way only words can. Perhaps this is the very reason literature intrigues so many people just as it repels others. Willingly exposing yourself to a literary work is somewhat of an unspoken consent in allowing another’s ideas to merge with your own. This silent revolution is one world leaders are hopelessly trying to extinguish—feeding words into the mouths of authors with the threat of reducing them to oblivion. Ironically, by limiting the idea authors can share, this threat is already implemented. It is essential for our writers to not fall into this trap—to continue penning their unfiltered ideas—and being willing to brace the criticism doubtlessly endured by all great art. Just as the tragic heroes, the protagonists of our favorite tales must go through hell and back to become victorious, and the brilliance behind these tales, the authors, must take just as difficult of a journey in making the choice between submission to the mainstream literature or the struggle of penning their true words. The takeaway? Write warily, pen with caution, and allow your true voice to resonate.

Written by Nav Kaur, ’18

The Week I Met Wordsworth

Over spring break, I had the brilliant opportunity to travel to the English Lake District (please Google this place, it’s a fairytale land) to study Wordworth in his beloved Grasmere. I cannot stop gushing about my trip; it was life-changing in so many respects, and I’ll take as much time out of my day as you want to show you my pictures and tell you my stories. But one of the greatest things I got out of this trip as an English major was the opportunity to truly connect with an author, to really get to know William Wordsworth as a human being who wrote poetry.

IMG_3531Here I am holding a first edition 1798 Lyrical Ballads. Yeah, that’s what it felt like to hold that book. Even after learning in detail how to pick up, hold, and open a book of such value and age, I was terrified. The process is almost holy, but when completed, it was the most exhilarating feeling. I held the beginning of Romanticism, the beginning of Wordsworth; that book was so much more than just old pages to me.


That day continued with a long walk through the countryside, as we traced Wordsworth’s footsteps through Hawkshead, traveling the same route he walked to get to school. Simply existing in the space he existed in made me realize that Wordsworth was a real person who had a special adoration the natural world that surrounded him. What a surreal moment it was, to look out at the same mountains he looked at, to watch the sun fall through the afternoon just as he would have.


Hiking through Hawkshead



The Goslar notebook

I could go on for days. How I touched the Goslar notebook, where The Prelude was born. How I held Wordsworth’s own copy of Paradise Lost, which was 100 years old when he owned it. How at least one person in our group cried everyday out of the intense emotion that comes with truly connecting with an author. How we ate dinner in Dove Cottage and read poems by candlelight. But these experiences are ones that have to be lived to be known. I know that traveling to England is not an option for everyone, but the ability to at once revere an author and know them as a person is absolutely possible for all lovers of literature. You can’t sit in a chair all day and expect to know who an author was. Before, during, and after reading, get out and live the literature you love. Trust me, you will be forever changed for the better.


Written by Emma Irving

To find out more about the Wordworth Trust and all the awesome programs they offer, visit:

Forget the Hard Stuff: This is Why You Should Fall in Love with Poetry

And, more importantly, fall in love with your own poetry. Forget what your English and Creative Writing professors have taught you. (I know they’re reading this, and I’m sorry, but do it.) Learn how to write for you.

Hi, me again. The obnoxious blogger who reminded you why Percy Shelley was still relevant.  Today I’m reminding you why you should want to write poetry. Here’s the simple answer: it’s FUN.

Here’s the long answer:

Of course writing for classes and publication are different than what I’m talking about here, but remember that poetry should be an exploration. Play with form. Play with sound. Play with images. Poetry is great in its very few rules, and, when you are writing solely for your own enjoyment, those rules don’t exist at all.

I’m not talking about writing sappy love poems after you share a first kiss with someone—though absolutely write those too. I’m talking about putting one word after another just to see what happens. So many students seem to forget what makes poetry so exciting. It’s discovering what you can create with words and images. Poetry is fun because it’s short—you can write a poem in two minutes, if you must—but also because it’s so sound-oriented.

Play with words! Make them your own. You never have to show anyone. Play with rhyme scheme and meter. Do it on your own time. Don’t worry about your class assignments. It is so vital for writing majors to practice the art of writing for the sound of it. Listen to the way the words move. Feel the way they move you.

Let’s apply this to (of course), an old dead poet. My favorite. Langston Hughes.

In case you haven’t read it (though what English major hasn’t?), here it is.

The instructor said,

Go home and write
a page tonight.
And let that page come out of you—
Then, it will be true.

I wonder if it’s that simple?
I am twenty-two, colored, born in Winston-Salem.
I went to school there, then Durham, then here
to this college on the hill above Harlem.
I am the only colored student in my class.
The steps from the hill lead down into Harlem
through a park, then I cross St. Nicholas,
Eighth Avenue, Seventh, and I come to the Y,
the Harlem Branch Y, where I take the elevator
up to my room, sit down, and write this page:

It’s not easy to know what is true for you or me
at twenty-two, my age. But I guess I’m what
I feel and see and hear, Harlem, I hear you:
hear you, hear me—we two—you, me, talk on this page.
(I hear New York too.) Me—who?
Well, I like to eat, sleep, drink, and be in love.
I like to work, read, learn, and understand life.
I like a pipe for a Christmas present,
or records—Bessie, bop, or Bach.
I guess being colored doesn’t make me NOT like
the same things other folks like who are other races.
So will my page be colored that I write?
Being me, it will not be white.
But it will be
a part of you, instructor.
You are white—
yet a part of me, as I am a part of you.
That’s American.
Sometimes perhaps you don’t want to be a part of me.
Nor do I often want to be a part of you.
But we are, that’s true!
As I learn from you,
I guess you learn from me—
although you’re older—and white—
and somewhat more free.

This is my page for English B.

Forgetting content for a minute—which is incredible in and of itself—let’s look at what makes this a fun read. The first amazing thing about this poem is how natural it sounds—it sounds like conscious thought. The second awesome thing is the rhyme scheme that totally is intentional but totally doesn’t sound intentional. Cool, right?

But writing polished poetry with an important message and cool internal rhyme and proper metre and all these other things does take time, and it can become more cumbersome. Less about the fun. So let’s look at another poem.

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought–
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

‘And, has thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!’
He chortled in his joy.

‘Twas brillig and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

Lewis Carroll’s Jaberwocky is a great example of stretching language to find something new. Carroll is the only one to ever use some of these words, and the poem is fun to read.

Be brave; try new things. Push words around on a page. Speak out loud to yourself. Though something good may come of it, know that you can always write something else later. Poetry for a grade is good, but poetry for yourself, and for the enriching and benefiting of your own mind, can sometimes prove more fruitful in the long run. Remember that poetry shouldn’t be a chore, but something you want to pursue! Remember that you can write poetry for you!

That rhymed. Guess I’m a poet too!



New year, new issue!

Welcome back everyone! To kick off a new semester, we’ve launched Issue 15, which can be viewed here! These pieces truly are the best of the best…out of the dozens of submissions we received last semester, the 8 featured in this issue truly blew us away! Take this relaxing Sunday to read each piece in the issue and get inspired, because we are reading submissions for Issue 16 now through March 1st!

Continue to follow our team this semester by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, and keeping up with the blog here. Best wishes for a successful and happy spring semester from everyone at the Blue Route!

We did it!

Happy end of the semester everyone! From all of us here at the Blue Route, we hope you crushed your finals/final essays/projects, had safe travels home, and are ready to enjoy an awesomely relaxing winter break. Keep an eye out for our next issue launching in January…until then, HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!!!!!!

Sara Jaffe’s “Dryland” Provides Splashes of Feeling in a Hard-Set Reality

Need a break from the billion assignments you have to complete as the semester wraps up? Staff member Kelsey reviews and recommends Dryland by Sara Jaffe for your reading pleasure in the midst of all the insanity.

Dryland, Sara Jaffe – Tinhouse Books, Sept 2, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-941040-13-3

dryland“I looked at my reflection in my dad’s computer screen. In a way I looked like my brother, and in a way I didn’t.” Julie Winter, the narrator of Sara Jaffe’s latest novel Dryland is a young fifteen year old girl in 1992 who struggles to find her own identity after her brother Jordan almost became an Olympic swimmer. Through a novel that doesn’t rush or drag, but beats back and forth like water, Jaffe creates a tangible world that addresses identity of all types.

The book opens with Julie poring through swimming magazines in search of her brother’s face at Rich’s News, an activity she seems to have done often. Forced under her brother’s shadow, Julie herself has no base personality. Nothing interests the character at all; every force in Julie’s life at the start of the novel seems to be spurred by her best friend Erika, a girl who is easily wrapped up in boys, shopping, yearbook club, and anything a stereotypical middle-school girl would love, though she’s old enough to be in high school. In a scene at an outdoor river market early in the book, Erika points out all the skater boys who take her fancy. “Which one do you think is the cutest?” She asks. Julie pointsat a boy who Erika also agrees is cute, until the guy “took off his baseball cap and his long hair went down past his shoulders… It wasn’t a guy. It was suddenly so obviously not a guy.” Julie’s anguish reaveals more to the reader than she herself is aware of. This is the audience’s first encounter with her sexuality, a motif she must learn to come to terms with.

Julie trudges through her life until she is invited onto the swim team by Alexis, the girls’ team captain. Julie takes the bait, expecting to be a natural in the water like her brother. She’s awful. She doesn’t have enough strength or stamina to finish training without stopping for breaks. She does badly at meets. She doesn’t even seem to be making new friends on the team apart from Alexis, who snakes into Julie’s life and invites her to club parties. Meanwhile, Julie is making friends with Ben, an ex-acquaintance of her brother’s who lost contact with him after Jordan moved away.

As Julie reveals her sexuality both to herself and the reader through fragmented experiences with Alexis, she learns more of her brother’s hidden homosexual past. Scandals with Jordan’s swim coach and a porn magazine leave Julie worrying if her brother was healthy or sick with AIDS— and if he was even still on the other side of the world like he’d last said. “He could be in San Diego, one hand on his coach’s dick,” thought Julie. The two intertwined discoveries chip at Julie’s personality in a way that feels almost suspenseful; readers are enticed to learn more about the connections between Julie, her sexuality, and the ever-expanding world around her, driving the book forward.

Early on in the novel, Julie had addressed the lack of common interests shared by herself and Erika. “If Erika and I stopped being friends, it might be sad for a moment, and then okay. It would be what got called growing apart, which sounded calming, a floating, a benign disintegration.” Surprisingly, the two keep a complacent relationship. In this way, Jaffe hints at the forced high school relationships people cultivate for the sole purpose of having someone else. The usual novel arc would have seen a split between the two girls, but thankfully the relationships in Jaffe’s novel are neither typical or simple. Something much more complex beats beneath the surface.

Julie’s relationship with Alexis also goes much deeper than a stereotypical young-adult-novel-type relationship. The way the two girls gravitated around each other created a dynamic that was both interesting and intelligent. The way that Julie obsesses over Alexis caused the relationship or lack thereof to feel much more realistic. The reader believes Julie is crushing on Alexis before Julie herself realizes it.

Like the themes of friendship, sexuality, and identity Jaffe molds in her book, Jaffe’s prose cultivates very real images that shimmer for the reader. “It was shiny out. The pavement was slick and the streetlights were starfishes of light… My mind felt foamy and clean.” Lines throughout the book ebb and flow like waves. “Country Feedback” by R.E.M. is a recurring song that follows Julie throughout the piece, pulling the novel like the moon pushes the tides. When it is first introduced, Jaffe writes, “The song scooped something out of me. It was listening to me and watching me in ways it shouldn’t.”

Dryland feels real in the best way possible, making it seem more like a piece of creative nonfiction. Jaffe has created a world so much bigger than Julie herself.So many issues in Julie’s life exist outside the bounds of the story, creating a sort of poetic glimpse into this young girl’s life; as in poetry, Jaffe takes a moment, stretches it, digs into it. While Julie herself never goes through any sweeping changes, she does develop, and her world does grow over the course of the novel. Having a passive main character is a risk, but Jaffe creates an elegant world that encompasses Julie and overwhelms her. Jaffe offers readers a story vivid enough that it is not only seen, but felt.

By Kelsey Styles ’17, originally published on The Blue&Gold

Community Bridge Bridges Community

Lately, there’s been a huge push on our campus to connect the city of Chester and Widener University through art…we love it! Staff member Kelsey Styles tells more about the latest of such events, Boundaries and Bridges, which seeks to both strengthen the art and cultural presence in the city, as well as connect the university to the city.

On November 13, students, faculty, and professors of Widener University meshed with members of the community on the Walnut Street Pedestrian Bridge as part of the much larger Boundaries and Bridges project.

John Carr performs a song for Devon Walls' promotional Boundaries and Bridges video.

John Carr performs a song for Devon Walls’ promotional Boundaries and Bridges video.

The hum of engines pulsed in the background, but that did little to deter performers as they stood in front of Devon Walls’ camera and read their work or talked about their projects or sang songs inviting change. Some cars honked up at them, but that only encouraged the crowd. To Walls, a Chester artist, their noise promotes notice. It means people are wondering why so many individuals are hanging out over Interstate 95.

At the end of the event, attendees dance and have fun as part of a larger celebration.

At the end of the event, attendees dance and have fun as part of a larger celebration.

The Walnut Street Bridge doesn’t connect the communities between Widener and Chester—it separates them. The highway whirring underneath acts as a wall between one group and another. The goal of Boundaries and Bridges is to mend these two broken worlds through art, because art is the medium connecting all living things.

Artists collectively share canvases to create a joint masterpiece as a symbol of what the Boundaries and Bridges program aims to do.

Artists collectively share canvases to create a joint masterpiece as a symbol of what the Boundaries and Bridges program aims to do.

The program truly kicked off the Friday previous when an information session was held discussing what the program planned to do after it received a Catalyst Grant from the Barra Foundation, which “works to advance Greater Philadelphia’s culture of innovation.” The goal of Boundaries and Bridges is to both strengthen the art and cultural presence in the city, as well as connect the university to the city.

Blue Route staff member Kim Roberts takes her turn with a brush.

Blue Route staff member Kim Roberts takes her turn with a brush.

Widener students, children, and members of the community all worked to create a new piece of art.

Widener student, children, and members of the community all worked to create a new piece of art.

To find out more, like the Boundaries and Bridges page on Facebook, or visit The Artists Warehouse on 515 Avenue of the States in Chester. It’s time to move with the movement, cross that boundary, and build a bridge. What is your university doing to spread the arts around your community? Comment and let us know!

blue and gold 2

By Kelsey Styles ’17, originally published on The Blue&Gold

Happy FUSE Conference Week!

It’s finally here! From everyone on the staff at the Blue Route and all those in the English & Creative Writing department and beyond, we cannot wait to welcome everyone to Widener to have an awesome FUSE conference!

The theme of the conference this year, “Will You Look at That?” places a focus on aesthetics and its interactions with such topics as individual publications, the process of evaluating submissions, the digital realm, and the community. We’ve got two and a half days packed with panels by student editors from 14 different universities around the country, as well as some awesome special events such as:

  • Keynote speaker Lisa Funderburg, the author of Pig Candy, speaking on Thursday afternoon
  • Special Presentations by professional editors and Widener faculty, as well as one by Widener students engaged with textual scholarship
  • Fun evening activities like an Open Mic hosted by the English Club and a concert by Smart Barker (rock-n-roll with a literary twist)
  • A Saturday morning excursion to the Brandywine River Museum to finish out the conference

Remember to take tons of pictures and hashtag everything with #FUSE15 on social media so we can live tweet the conference!

It’s going to be the best FUSE conference yet…see you soon!

Written by Emma Irving