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More about TAB Submission Info

How We Read Poems

Earlier this summer, Editor Anna Leahy’s craft essay about punctuation in poetry appeared at Waxwing. This essay was originally developed as a presentation for the Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference (but was not presented because of the pandemic). Leahy opens:

As a poet, I’m intrigued by the tension between the clarity of standard grammar and the innovation that can emerge when grammatical conventions are elided or subverted. I spend an inordinate amount of time on social media defending the Oxford comma, yet when I put my own pen to poem, I treat each comma as a choice. When I read poems, grammatical mistakes irritate me, unless they don’t. Poetry’s punctuation follows what I’d like to call the principle of full expression.

At Tab Journal, we read for full expression, not applying one simple or objective standard or another but, instead, looking at each poem according to the terms it sets for itself on the page or screen and aloud. Later in that essay, Leahy refers also to “the full expression of lived experience” that a poem represents. The range of lived experience in this world is why Tab Journal seeks poems that, together in each issue and over a given year’s volume, demonstrate aesthetic, topical, and experiential variety.

The poem submissions are first read by staff, all of whom are alums of or current students in the MFA in Creative Writing program at Chapman University. This year, that’s been Liz Harmer, Daniel Miess, Laila Shikaki, Jason Thornberry, and Tryphena Yeboah. Each submission is read by at least two staff, often three, after which the editor makes final decisions. Any one staffer’s enthusiastic yes is taken seriously so that a yes is never merely canceled out by another staffer’s no. The process also allows for the maybe—an interest, a questioning. Because the staff represents diverse perspectives and aesthetics, Tab Journal uses this approach to the individual yes or maybe to challenge the status quo and to avoid drowning out an underrepresented point of view.

Of course, we end up with more good poems than we publish, so final decisions involve additional considerations. How will the contents of an issue play off each other—complement, contradict, challenge, talk with, and build upon each other? What does a curated group of poems make together? The 2020 print issue, in fact, can be literally built out of the poems that are its contents.

We also consider how each poem will appear visually in the format Tab Journal has chosen as part of its design constraints. Because we use pdf files instead of blog formatting, the online issues allow for a great deal of agility within the constraint of the screen’s page size and orientation. They’re also downloadable. While we value consistency, we are not tied, for instance, to a set margin for the sake of having a set margin, when a particular poem challenges that aspect of our style guide. Formatting decisions are guided first by accessibility and then by balancing the poem’s aesthetics with the journal’s format.

Stacked tower from printed panels in the Vol. 8, 2020 print issue

Finally, each year, the Editor and the Creative Director look back at the design and the contents to understand the journal’s trajectory and make changes. We’ve selected the content for this year’s remaining issues, and we’ve now begun that process of looking back over the year. Creating a completely new design for each January print issue forces us to reconsider our assumptions, recognize our strengths and weaknesses, and take new risks.

Tab Journal strives to be a project where poetry meets design in inclusive reading experiences. We read poems with that vision in mind. And we ask you to join us in this reading experience!

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Important Update More about TAB

Statement of Solidarity

On June 6, 2020, Tab Journal tweeted its solidarity with and support for the protesters calling for social justice and change in the United States. We can do better, and we understand that good intentions are not enough. In its decision-making, Tab Journal strives to become increasingly inclusive. The Editor and the Creative Director advocate for greater diversity and inclusion both in literary culture and communities and on the Chapman University campus, where this project is housed.

As an interdisciplinary project housed in Wilkinson College, Tab Journal aligns itself with the Statement of Solidarity with Black Lives Matter issued by the Interdisciplinary Minors, excerpted here.

 [Tab Journal stands] in solidarity with Black Lives Matter and Black communities across the country. We deplore the horrific murders of unarmed Black people by the police and the systemic racism in police forces, in educational and legal institutions, and throughout society. We support the protestors calling on us to say the names of victims of a compromised system of criminal justice: George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Sean Read, Tony McDade, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Philando Castile, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, and many more.

[…] We must teach and learn this history and the dynamics of this present moment with an investment in education for a future of less shame, less suffering, less fear, less hate, and more justice, more hope, more peace.

We encourage everyone, including those of us who belong to marginalized communities, to hold honest conversations about anti-Blackness and discrimination with our own families, friends, and communities. Covid-19 continues to expose what we have already known to be the racial and social inequalities that our communities live through daily. We witnessed the rise of anti-Asian rhetoric and violence, disregard for “essential” immigrant workers, and staggering infection rates among Native Americans. We need to reimagine what it means to stand in solidarity with each other.

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More about TAB

Get to know TAB Staff

space before text color blocks with blue, red, and black

In 2011, poet and nonfiction writer Anna Leahy and information designer Claudine Jaenichen started talking about the possibility of the project that launched as TAB: The Journal of Poetry & Poetics with the tabloid-format print issue in January 2013. Leahy serves as TAB Editor, and Jaenichen is TAB’s Creative Director. They work together closely on each volume of TAB and on decisions about the content and the design of both the print and online issues.

TAB editorial staff at desk

Brian Glaser serves as TAB Criticism Editor. He reads both the scholarly essays and creative nonfiction that’s submitted to TAB. Glaser teaches both literature and writing classes at Chapman University. His poetry collection The Sacred Heart was published by Aldrich Press (part of Kelsay Books) in 2018.

For the first time, we’ve asked MFA alums to serve on the staff. This year, we welcome Liz Harmer, whose novel The Amateurs was a finalist for the Amazon Canada First Novel Award. One of her poems, written during her time at Chapman University, was the runner-up for the Mitchell Prize in Poetry.

Liz Harmer

Alum Laila Shikaki also joins the staff. While TAB doesn’t publish those who are currently or recently directly affiliated with Chapman University, Shikaki’s work appeared in the Current Issue and in Volume 5, since she earned her MFA. Shikaki is from Palenstine and is now earning her PhD at St. John’s University in New York.

headshot of tryphena yeboah
Tryphena Yeboah

The current MFA in Creative writing students who are on the staff are Daniel Miess, Tori O’Leary, Jason Thornberry, and Tryphena Yeboah. Thornberry is working on aspects related to accessibility and inclusion under Faculty Opportunity Funding awarded to support the changes in TAB you’re seeing this year. We’re especially excited that Yeboah, who is from Ghana, placed a short story at Narrative her first semester in the MFA program.

You can check out the Staff page for more info.