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Tab Staff Q&A

What is your favorite piece that has been published in Tab Journal?

Liz Harmer: I love the weirdness and ecstasy of Hilary King’s “Icebreaker with Neruda” in this year’s print issue.

Sam Risak: “Hop In, Clive” by Hilary King. As someone raised in rural Florida, I have spent a decent amount of time on golf carts, and I love how King calls out C.S. Lewis for not understanding joy by stating he obviously “never careened down / a Florida road, a tanned tangle / of cousins hanging off the back.”

Vesper North: For me, “Migration Seasons” by Dia Roth in the January issue of Volume 9.

What’s the most recent poetry book you’ve read?

Vesper North: Blue in Green by Chiyuma Elliot.

Jay Dye: The Nuclear Shadows of Palm Trees by Nikolai Garcia. I picked it up on a whim at LibroMobile in DTSA [Downton Santa Ana] because I liked the title. Most of the poems are about LA, so it’s made me reminisce of the time I spent living there in 2016-2017.

Sam Risak: The Earth Is Not Flat by Katharine Coles. I picked up this collection at AWP, and while I have not yet finished it, I can already tell it’s a work I will read more than once. Coles wrote the book through the Science Foundation’s Antarctic Artists and Writers Program, and each poem feels like it edges me slightly closer to seeing a landscape that we know so little about. Or, if not seeing it, then at least asking the questions such an overwhelming environment would incite. 

Liz Harmer: I have devoured, several times, Diane Seuss’s frank: sonnets. [And the review appears in Tab Journal Issue 2 (March), Volume 9 (2021).]

How do you get inspiration to write poetry? 

Liz Harmer: Inspiration comes from small feelings and images or scraps of language that arise here and there. Something odd in the atmosphere or the view. A novel way of speaking. 

Vesper North: Images will pop into my head–like a nebula or an empty highway or sometimes it’s an emotion that I visualize in color and shape, and I’ll think, I’ll try to turn that into a poem. 

Jay Dye: I focus on what I have been feeling, reading, and thinking about lately. If all else fails, I silence my inner critic and see what comes out. With a little work, messy and uninspired drafts can turn into some pretty good poetry.

Sam Risak: I usually find inspiration before I know what to do with it. I’ll see or hear something that grabs my attention (which can be anything from an interesting texture of algae to some fact I heard on Science Friday) and take note of it with a photo or on a piece of paper. Later, when I go to write a poem, I think about how I can give language to that cool “thing.” It’s only once I have the language down on paper that I’m able to figure out why that “thing” mattered to me.

Let’s change the topic, just for fun. If you could choose to be an animal, what animal would you be and why?

Sam Risak: Raccoon. I’m a scavenger. I eat everything that’s on my plate and then try to steal whatever I can off everyone else’s. And, if I’m being honest, the food doesn’t necessarily even have to be on a plate. If it’s been thrown out but isn’t touching anything too suspicious, that’s fair game, too. 

Jay Dye: I think I would be an octopus. Their powers of metamorphosis are incredible and they’re very smart. It would also be a lot of fun to explore the ocean.

Liz Harmer: My answer has always been that I’d choose to be a tiger, and I’ll stick with that out of loyalty to my childhood self.

Vesper North: Phoenix–what’s not to like about a phoenix.

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Food Allergy Awareness Week & Close Reading

a special post by Lydia Pejovic

From as young as three years old, I remember carefully reading ingredients on wrappers, bags, boxes, nutritional facts PDFs. My severe food allergies made me realize that, when my parents were not around, I had to rely on my own knowledge to keep myself safe. When teachers would hand out snacks at school, I would look at them suspiciously, turning the packages over in my hand and searching the label for keywords like eggs, egg albumen, lecithin (soy lecithin was okay), almonds, cashews, walnuts, peanuts, coconut, macadamia. Oftentimes, my teachers would gently remind me that I had this same snack just the other day and offer to open the package themselves, just to get me to start acting like a normal child, one who didn’t obsessively read and reread and reread cookie wrappers.

“I can’t be sure you checked. My parents need me to check.”

Every year, my mom would take me to the allergist to get the same sort of spiel about my allergies. Normally, a very elderly man with a clipboard and cold hands would ask me if anything had changed (it hadn’t), and then say, “It’s likely your daughter will grow out of her allergies. Many children are able to wake up and eat things they were allergic to out of the blue!”

I always sensed that “growing out” of my allergies was impossible for me. Maybe I thwarted the possibility through sheer frustration at how unlikely supposed mystery cures seemed, but I did not grow out of my allergies. My food restrictions are still severe: I don’t allow roommates to keep or cook eggs in the house (cross-contamination), I can’t go into breakfast restaurants (egg proteins travel in the air and give me hives, plus the possibility of cross-contamination), I don’t touch walnut wood (it makes me break out in a rash), I can’t kiss my boyfriend if he’s eaten anything that contains nuts (he needs to brush his teeth first), and much more. 

Food Allergy Awareness Week is May 8-14, 2022. Find out more at FARE.

However, despite the severity of my allergies, I cannot imagine my life without them. In fact, my allergies taught me to read carefully and to read a lot. I constantly had reading material, and that material mattered. The words written on those packages were life or death for me. I learned to value words, even seemingly boring ones. It’s significant that words mattered to me from a young age, that I was trained to read and react accordingly. In a funny way, my restrictions and challenges intertwined me more deeply with my first and greatest love: reading.

Growth can be found in the strangest of places. For me, it was found on the ingredient labels I had to, and still have to, read. I wouldn’t choose to have food allergies, but they remind me that words matter. Even if I grew out of my allergies today (I won’t, I’m far too old for that) or if they were magically cured, I wouldn’t change my habits or mindset. And I think I’m satisfied with that because that’s part of who I am.

Tab Communications Coordinator Lydia Pejovic
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Events Poem Prompt

April 29: Poem in Your Pocket Day

It’s National Poetry Month, and Friday, April 29, is this year’s Poem in Your Pocket Day! Feel free to peruse the Current Issue and the Archives of Tab Journal for some great pocket poem options.

In fact, the poems you’ll find here at TabJournal can be shared easily in visual and audio versions on social media with the hashtags #PocketPoem and #TabJournal. Leave the poem open on your phone so you can kick off your Friday meeting with a recitation. Or to keep a copy in your physical pocket, you can print an individual poem from an issue PDF.

Black and white image with the Tab Journal Logo and collage of reflective minerals and textures
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Interview: Tab Contributing Editors Ruben Quesada & Lynne Thompson

As part of our celebration of National Poetry Month, Tab Journal Communications Coordinator Lydia Pejovic posed a few questions to our new Contributing Editors Ruben Quesada and Lynne Thompson both about their own interests in poetry and about the larger culture of poetry.

What about Tab Journal interested you enough to join the staff as a Contributing Editor?

Lynne Thompson: Tab Journal’s reputation as a literary journal that not only values text but exalts that text by pairing it with original and ever-changing graphic design has always made it a top-notch journal in my view. In addition, Tab’s commitment to a practice of equity and diversity in selecting its contributors, making it a policy that becomes integral and systemic in its editorial policy, made me excited to take on this role. 

Ruben Quesada: I’m impressed by Tab Journal’s visual elements. Fewer literary journals combine visual and literary aesthetics. I’m excited to introduce this journal to new readers and lovers of art and literature. 

What particular perspectives or skills do you bring to Tab Journal

Ruben Quesada: I’ve been editing literary journals for the past decade, and each journal I’ve worked with has taught me something new about editing. I believe that editing and composing an issue is similar to writing a poem. It is a practice of building an experience for the reader. With each iteration of an issue, I learn more about the importance of the editorial role. The experience reminds me of editing my work. As a jpurnal editor, I have the privilege of shaping readership and celebrating work that introduces me to new perspectives and reminds me about the beauty of life. 

Lynne Thompson: Fighting for equity for the underserved and marginalized has been a tenet of my work, first as an attorney, and now as a poet. In particular, in my role as L.A.’s Poet Laureate, I’ve worked to hone my skills to bring the broadest range of voices possible to public awareness on my podcast, Poems On Air.

When you review and select poems for publication, what are you looking to see? What about an ​individual poem make an impression on you? 

Lynne Thompson: I look, first and foremost, for the music in a poem’s lines. That music might be blues or Beethoven, might be Rhiannon Giddens or classical guitar, but whatever the genre, the music is always the most beguiling way in for me. 

Ruben Quesada: As a critic and editor, I try to find the question a poem or collection attempts to answer. An individual poem may clarify something, but there aren’t many poems that do this with insight and grace. Language should be composed thoughtfully. I’m excited about poems that draw my attention to music and storytelling. Form and content vary, but I believe all writing is a form of storytelling. 

What’s exciting about poetry right now?  

Ruben Quesada: I’ve always been excited about a poem’s imagination and language. I’m interested when a poem moves beyond the mundane in content and form. Poems are about the meaning of language and the beauty of imagination. Writing poetry is a practice made simply for its intellect and style. Poetry is an art that is practiced and not a profession. Yet, anti-capitalists will decry the need to be paid for labor. What excites me about poetry right now is its growing loss of value. Poetry is too focused on the poem’s maker as a token of the art and less on the art itself. 

Lynne Thompson: Despite the nightmare that has been the pandemic that is entering its third year, poets have been deeply ensconced in their craft as evidenced from the “gotta-buy-it” books from visionaries like Randall Horton‘s {289-128}and Mai Der Vang’s Yellow Rain, among too many other truly amazing books to name. I’m most excited that the creative impulse survives like a green shoot bisecting hard ground.

How can poetry connect us to our communities?  

Lynne Thompson: The poet Laure-Anne Bosselaar recently recommended that poets write about communities other than our own. Her advice strikes me as a brilliant approach for us all to begin to understand and honor our individual communities and to look for ways to connect with them, to empathize.

Ruben Quesada: Over the past decade, I’ve become more interested in poetry’s intersection at various forms of media to create an experience that can transcend language and culture. In the early 20th century, poets responded to their age of the image. Long before film and television became widely accessible to audiences, poets created worlds of their own for readers. As communication becomes more entangled in multimedia, poetry will serve as a tool for literacy worldwide. 

Submissions are open now but will likely close by the end of May as the Editor, Contributing Editors, and Creative Director make content decisions for the July, September, and November issues.

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Tab Staff Updates

headshot of jay dye, who is smiling and has hair that falls longer than shoulders and bangs

Tab Journal is excited to welcome Jay Dye to the staff as an Assistant Editor. Our assistant editors play several roles, including evaluating submissions and writing book reviews.

Jay Dye (she/her) is a writer and artist from Orange County, CA. Her work has been published in CalliopeScribendi, and Sapere Aude. See more at https://jaydye.org.

headshot of ian ooh, who is wearing glasses and a jacket

We are also happy to share that Ian Koh has joined Narrative Magazine as an Assistant Poetry Editor. While this opportunity means that he can no longer evaluate submissions for Tab Journal, he is staying on staff as a book reviewer and to help out in other areas. Ian joins Chapman University MFA alum Mariana Samuda and soon-to-be-alum Paige Welsh on the Narrative staff.

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Visual Poetry

Visual Poetry: interview recap

As part of the larger conversation about poetics, design, and accessibility that Tab Journal encourages, Communications Coordinator Lydia Pejovic interviewed five visual poets whose work we’ve published. As we move well into National Poetry Month, we want to recap these conversations.

Tab Journal welcomes visual poems that challenge traditional conventions of page, line, and poetic form. To use the term visual poetry is, perhaps, to gloss over the fact that typeset text is itself visual. What exactly do we mean by the term visual? And what does this imply about poems that are spoken aloud—or read with the ears instead of the eyes? How can design thinking help us explore how visual and textual elements make meaning together?

See the March 2022 issue (Volume 10, Issue 2) for the interwoven interview. In addition, over the past month, each poet has shared additional thoughts and practices here at Tab Musings.

Visual Poetry: Monica Ong

Visual Poetry: Kylie Gellatly

Visual Poetry: Keith S. Wilson

Visual Poetry: Maria DeGuzmán

Visual Poetry: Donna Spruijt-Metz

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Tab Contributing Editors: Ruben Quesada & Lynne Thompson

Tab Journal welcomes Contributing Editors Ruben Quesada and Lynne Thompson as part of the editorial team for the July, September, and November 2022 issues. We’re grateful for the Poetry Foundation grant funding that supports these positions.

Ruben Quesada is the editor of Latinx Poetics: Essays on the Art of Poetry, out this year from University of Nebraska Press, and hosts the Mercy Street Readings. He visited Chapman University via Zoom last fall to speak with MFA students in the required Aspects of a Writer course. His energy and breadth of knowledge and experience made him a top choice for our new position. His latest poetry book is Revelations from Sibling Rivalry Press.

Lynne Thompson is the Poet Laureate of Los Angeles and has visited Chapman University several times, so she has a good sense of what we’re trying to accomplish with Tab Journal and how she can make a difference. A lawyer by training, Thompson sits on the boards of the Los Angeles Review of Books and Cave Canem and is the Chair of the Board of Trustees at Scripps College. Her latest book is Fretwork (2019), winner of the Marsh Hawk Press Poetry Prize.

In our grant proposal, we wrote:

Tab Journal requests a grant from the Poetry Foundation specifically to continue our diversity and inclusion initiatives. A diverse pool of submissions flourishes based upon several factors: the journal’s self-representation, credibility of staff, integrity of equitable policies and practices, analysis of and response to demographic information, broadly written calls, expansive networks (visibility in BIPOC spaces), and incentives. 

We consciously chose not to use the guest editor model, which too easily shifts responsibility for inclusion away from the organization’s underlying structures, policies, and practices. Instead, our contributing editors are part of the conversation about how Tab Journal reaches potential readers and contributors, how staff read and respond to submissions, and which poems end up in the published issues. We’ve defined the contributing editors as collaborators rather than advisors, and we’ve had some frank conversations about the challenges we face and the possibilities we envision.

One of the first changes we made was to add optional demographic questions to the submission form.

Submissions opened in February, with our greatest one-month influx of submissions. At least two staff read each submission anonymously, and those submissions that make it to the next round are read by the Contributing Editors, Editor, and Creative Director, who will collaboratively make decisions about what goes in which issue. The decisions we make together will be evident in the published issues later this year, but we’re also excited about how the conversations are shaping the way we do things and suggesting future goals.

In the last couple of weeks, submissions have slowed down a bit, so now is a great time to send something our way! Keep in mind that, because we give a lot of attention to design and production, we work several months ahead of each issue’s publication date. Once we fill the November issue, we’ll close submissions–and that could happen in May. So, get yourself over to Submittable this month.

Image of black and white collage with reflective silver textures with writing "space before text"
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Visual Poetry

Visual Poetry: Donna Spruijt-Metz

Tab Journal has published several visual poems over the last two years. Perhaps because we use design thinking in our approach to poetry, we’re interested in the definitions, practices, and possibilities for poets who are consciously using visual elements to create meaning. Tab Communications Coordinator Lydia Pejovic talked with five visual poets for the March issue: Maria DeGuzmán, Kylie Gellatly, Monica Ong, Donna Spruijt-Metz, and Keith S. Wilson.

Here, she talks in further detail with Donna Spruit-Metz.

Lydia Pejovic: Your work in Volume 10, Issue 1, of Tab Journal juxtaposes documentary material, in this case a death certificate, with poetry. How did you begin working with these visual materials?

death certificate with text running on right side and underneath

Donna Spruijt-Metz: Such a good question. Allison Albino, a dear poet friend of mine, sent me one of her poems that was bouncing off a family snapshot. We send poems to each other all the time for feedback.  I loved the poem, how it helped her to talk about things that she hadn’t talked about in her poetry before. At the same time, I was going through boxes and boxes of my mother’s archives. I had been putting that off for decades. I was really having a hard time of it. She suggested I try doing the same thing with some of those materials. And so I embarked on that journey and it really was amazingly painful and fruitful—like writing poetry so often is!

Lydia Pejovic: Your previous career was as a professional flutist. In what ways do you see poetry and music interacting? Can a visual piece be musical? 

Donna Spruijt-Metz: Another good question. I think poetry and music ALWAYS interact—or I might say that my favorite poets all have music in their language. I wrote an entire ekphrastic cycle based on J.S. Bach’s St. John Passion—some of them are in the forthcoming book. That was one of my favorite pieces to play. So, in those poems, I was listening to each section again and again, and crafting the work to kind of ‘match’ the section. A direct relationship, thus. But in general, I listen for the music in the lines and in the poems—the meter, the arc—crescendo and decrescendo, tempi, register, even pitch. Yes. I really do think that all plays a part in making a poem stunning, memorable, worthwhile. I have been memorizing Christian Wiman’s poem “Every Riven Thing.” That poem is SO musical—so much music. The lilt in the beginning, the change in meter with the change in subject matter. He’s a genius at it.

Lydia Pejovic: How do you decide, then, which poems should be visual? Your poem “I Find This in My Mother’s Effects,” for example, uses the actual image of the death certificate, possibly functioning as visual evidence of your mother’s effects. Are there specific themes or concepts that work better visually?

Donna Spruijt-Metz: Oh, I don’t think I work in that direction. Or I haven’t yet, but it is a really tempting idea.

Up until now, it has been the shock of seeing a picture or document, and thinking, I have to write about that, but I need the picture to be there for me—or the reader ?—otherwise it won’t work. I can’t say what the picture says. But it is an intriguing idea to be working on a poem and think, I can’t get the ‘aboutness’ right—this needs a picture, or it reminds me of a picture. 

Previously in Visual Poetry: Maria DeGuzmán

Also, see the March 2022 issue (Volume 10, Issue 2) for more from all five visual poets who participated in this conversation.

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Visual Poetry

Visual Poetry: Maria DeGuzmán

Tab Journal has published several visual poems over the last two years. Perhaps because we use design thinking in our approach to poetry, we’re interested in the definitions, practices, and possibilities for poets who are consciously using visual elements to create meaning. Tab Communications Coordinator Lydia Pejovic talked with five visual poets for the March issue: Maria DeGuzmán, Kylie Gellatly, Monica Ong, Donna Spruijt-Metz, and Keith S. Wilson.

Here, in excerpts from a longer exchange, she talks in further detail with Maria DeGuzmán.

Lydia Pejovic: In Volume 10, Issue 2 (our Current Issue as this post goes live), your visual poetry functions somewhat like captions for photographs of what seem to be abstract images. How did you come up with this combination and decide the relationship between text and image?

Maria DeGuzmán: I see what you call photographs of abstract images as both abstract and subtly figurative, as formlessness taking form, and form reshaping into other forms. For me, captions to photographic images (whether figural, abstract, or both) were and are inspired by many sources: Egyptian hieroglyphs, medieval illuminated manuscripts, emblem books, children’s picture books, film (especially silent films), newspapers, comics, advertising, Surrealist experiments with word and image, album covers, book covers, video, etc. In most cases the caption attempts to anchor the polysemy of the mute image. But, the mute image continues to radiate, or vibrate, (r)evolving possibilities, slipping around and away from that attempted anchoring, as does the caption itself, despite its putative function.

Either way, one is faced with a melting, deliquescence, or dissolution of the seemingly fixed and “solid,” even when one is working with figural, concrete images. These dynamics of signification are born out of the tensions between language and consciousness. Much of poetry would seem to spring from the attempt to go beyond the constraints of language. These tensions between language and consciousness drew me and continue to draw me to water. Why not work with liquidity, with water, one of the most seemingly familiar, yet strangest, of liquids, a compound substance with anomalous properties, evoking not only contemplation, but forms in motion, among them, animate things, life itself as we know it (and don’t know it) on this planet?

Captions are, in “Trauerspiel of Water,” captions for photographs of water being swirled around a bowl. The combination of captions and photographs of swirling water creates a juxtaposition between what, at first glance, might seem like the fixed (the caption) and the unfixed (the water), between intentional order and random chaos. However, the contrasting juxtaposition morphs into a surprising conjunction as the watery image assumes form (rather than formlessness) and challenges the assumed prerogative of written or spoken language to have dominion over form-making.

Lydia Pejovic: Do you spend a long time interpreting what you see in your photographs/images, or do you write based off of first impressions? 

Maria DeGuzmán: I write from a combination of first impressions and time spent interpreting and researching what I see in the photographs. The first impressions come to me from the emotional impact of the image or images in question. These first impressions surge, a fragment of melody, not in words, but in tones and vibrations. I have a synesthetic response to them. The time spent interpreting and researching comes about through my interaction with the details of the images, details that correlate with striking forms and, furthermore, resemblance (in the midst of formlessness) to bodies (human and more than human), objects, land, oceans, maps, scenes, faces, squiggles of light that appear, to me, like numbers, letters (from a variety of alphabets), symbols, characters from shorthand, and so forth. 

Lydia Pejovic: How do you go about creating your images? How do you choose the color, how much to swirl the water, etc.? Do the images often turn out differently than you expected them to?

Maria DeGuzmán: I fill a metal bowl with water. I then place this vessel on a counter or table near a window or a light source (sun, full moon, candle, sometimes an incandescent or fluorescent light). With my left hand, I stir the water in the bowl with a metal spoon. With my right hand, I hold a small, digital camera. I take photos while I stir, varying the angle of the shots.

Later, I examine the photos one by one to see what shapes the water has assumed, what shapes “appear” in the water. I do not choose the color or, a prioiri or consciously, how much to swirl the water. The colors come from the fact that the water acts as a molten, shape-shifting prism that bends or refracts light into its constituent wavelengths. The luminosity and the variegated hues derive from the interaction between light waves and the swirling waves of water in a metal bowl.

This experiment and/or ritual is designed to override conscious control and expectations. The images are not manipulated. They are the product of “straight photography” that yields queer results. The images result from the camera’s freezing of refractive and reflective patterns in the water swirling too quickly for the naked eye to grasp. However, what is “there” involves continual acts of interpretive perception, vision, on the part of viewers, myself included. 

Previously in Visual Poetry: Keith S. Wilson

Next Up in Visual Poetry: Donna Spruijt-Metz

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Visual Poetry

Visual Poetry: Keith S. Wilson

Tab Journal has published several visual poems over the last two years. Perhaps because we use design thinking in our approach to poetry, we’re interested in the definitions, practices, and possibilities for poets who are consciously using visual elements to create meaning. Tab Communications Coordinator Lydia Pejovic talked with five visual poets for the March issue: Maria DeGuzmán, Kylie Gellatly, Monica Ong, Donna Spruijt-Metz, and Keith S. Wilson.

Here, she talks in further detail with Keith S. Wilson.

Lydia Pejovic: You write a mix of both visual and text-only poetry. Your poem in Volume 9, Issue 1, uses a strip of photographs as part of the meaning and design, and the poem seems shaped in relation to that. How do you decide which pieces should be visual and which should be wholly textual?

Keith S. Wilson: I try to remain open to the possibility of my own writing, especially outside of what I first intended. I used to write with the intention or hope, in the back of my head, of turning what I wrote into a finished piece. This is maybe like chiseling away at a statue, where there is a point at which I’ve concluded so many possibilities that what I have is final. This tends to happen with text-only poems. But now I view my writing as material, like any stanza I write is a piece of a collage, or a color of paint. So it MIGHT turn out to be strong when I’ve pushed it as far as it can textually go, but it might become something else entirely when I cut it apart, move it around, add it to something else.

Lydia Pejovic: How does the placement of lines in a visual piece change and/or enhance meaning?

Keith S. Wilson: I’m interested in a sense of play. In many of the understandings of that. Play means wiggle room and I’m interested in that–in one’s placement space allowing for more than one understanding of something. And play implies a sense of freedom and even joy sometimes, which comes sometimes through movement through space. But play can also invoke discipline and intentionality as well, as when one plays an instrument.

Lydia Pejovic: I saw that you have an interactive poem entitled “love” that I found to be innovative and interesting. How does technology influence the way you create visual poetry? Does it offer new opportunities?

Keith S. Wilson: It changes everything. Digital poetry shares a lot with certain kinds of theater and with video games—you can involve the direct actions of a reader/viewer. Which means you can implicate them, you can involve them or collaborate with them. There’s a barrier of entry into writing and coding this kind of work, and with engaging with it since technological literacy is often lower than reading literacy (and requires that kind of literacy as well), so it also closes off certain kinds of immediate understandings as well, but there are things I can do in an interactive poem that are not possible in a traditional poem.

Previously in Visual Poetry: Kylie Gellatly

Next Up in Visual Poetry: Maria DeGuzmán