The September issue is here—and it’s full of Book-Spine Poems for Pandemic Times.
The Idea Behind the September Issue
In 2013, New York-based artist Nina Kathchadourian published a collection of photographs of book spines called Sorted Books. In the book’s introduction, Brian Dillon writes, “it is as though the books have convened of their own accord like plants or insects—following secret or, in the case of more explicitly comic or narrative groupings, not-so-secret attractions.” That project rested on the idea, in Dillon’s words, “that books are objects designed to be handled.”
We’ve been thinking about this project for a long time and about how Tab Journal might encourage found-and-constructed literary and visual art. From its inception, Tab Journal has explored relationships between print and digital forms, between text and image, between writer and reader. In book-spine poems, the reader of books becomes the writer of the poem. The lines are the books’ titles, so is the poem written or curated? Does the poem say as much about the writer–curator’s reading habits as it does about the subject of the poem that’s been constructed?
What’s on Whose Shelf?
After the pandemic changed ways we access libraries and physical bookstores, Tab Journal sought poems composed and formed by stacking physical books as objects designed to be handled. This issue of Book-Spine Poems for Pandemic Times is a selection of both individuals’ bookshelves and what’s on people’s minds at this historical moment. Of course, it’s also a collection of remarkable, intriguing poems using shared constraints.
In reading this issue, it’s important also to consider who has a bookshelf at home and what that means. One recent global study indicated that kids who grow up with books in the home tend to perform better academically. A home library is likely a side effect of the sort of wealth and education that open doors as much as it is part of a learning environment that builds skills and empathy that foster achievement. We hope that this issue of Tab Journal opens a larger conversation about books in our lives.
…read more while September is the Current Issue.