AWP 2023 Recap

Panel proposals for the Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference in Kansas City in 2024 are due on June 1, so it’s a good time to recap Tab Journal‘s exciting visit to Seattle this past March.

Tab Journal poster

If you were there too, we hope you picked up the January “pouch” print issue of Tab Journal at this year’s AWP Conference. We had a wonderful time meeting many of you, both at the Chapman University booth and at our panels. Tab Communications Coordinator Lydia Pejovic moderated “Leading, Styling, and Other Navigations: Writers and Editors as Designers.” And MFA Graduate Programs Director David Krausman moderated “Foreseeable Futures: Equitable Access to Professional Trajectories for Students.”

Eighteen graduate students from Chapman University attended the AWP Conference. This was a great turnout for us and an opportunity for our burgeoning writers to network with industry professionals and attend a variety of enriching panels. 

We left AWP without a single copy of the print issue to lug home. If you are a teacher or librarian and would like us to send you a batch, please use the Contact form and keep in mind that we slow down for summer.

Tab Journal will see you next year in Kansas City!


Tab Journal at AWP

Join Tab Journal at this year’s Association of Writers & Writing Programs Conference in Seattle.

FREE copies of Tab Journal
2023 & 2022 print issues
AWP Bookfair Booth #903

Plus, Editor Anna Leahy and Communications Coordinator Lydia Pejovic will share Tab Journal‘s approach to design on.

Leading, Styling, and Other Navigations:
Writers and Editors as Designers

Friday, March 10, 2023, at 3:20 pm to 4:35 pm
Rooms 333-334, Summit Bldg, Seattle Convention Center

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.

Cropped banner showing cover of printed journal sneaking out the zipper and grid pattern pouch
Events Important Update

March: Autoimmune Awareness Month at Tab

March is Autoimmune Awareness Month. Tab Journal acknowledges the many poets who have and written about autoimmune disease.

Autoimmunity, Chronic Illness, Poetry

One of Editor Anna Leahy’s early poetry professors was Mary Swander, who sought treatment for allergies in 1983 and instead ended up with autoimmune dysregulation in which her body couldn’t tolerate certain foods, pollutants, and orders. In 1998, Swander edited a collection of essays by writers with chronic illness. Much and little has changed since then.

Here’s an excerpt from “In a Dream,” an earlier poem by Mary Swander but one that might be thought to foreshadow chronic illness:

Your feel it diving into you,
lodge between muscle and bone,
move one spiny fin.
Your whole body goes numb.

Poet Suzanne Edison also edited an autoimmunity-themed collection that combines her poems with visual explorations. Moreover, The Body Lives Its Undoing includes not only the perspectives of patients but also family, physicians, and researchers.

A couple of years ago, Bustle ran a list thirteen poems about chronic illness, featuring work by Hieu Minh Nguyen, Max Ritvo, and others.

Autoimmunity, Covid, Poetry

model of pink coronavirus spike protein

Earlier this month, poet and nonfiction writer Meghan O’Rourke wrote in Scientific American, “When the first wave of coronavirus infections hit the U.S. in March 2020, what kept me up at night was not only the tragedy of the acute crisis but also the idea that we might soon be facing a second crisis—a pandemic of chronic illness triggered by the virus.” O’Rourke argues in this article and in her new book The Invisible Kingdom that covid long-haulers are a game-changer for all those who’ve faced autoimmune dysregulation, the difficulty of getting a diagnosis, and the frustration of inadequate treatment and research funding.

O’Rourke’s own autoimmune disorder emerged in the wake of her mother’s terminal illness, something she wrote about in The Long Goodbye and in poems like “Ever.” The opening lines of the poem “The Night Where You No Longer Live” suggests such a shift in well-being:

Was it like lifting a veil
And was the grass treacherous, the green grass

Did you think of your own mother

Was it like a virus
Did the software flicker

And was this the beginning

Jen Karetnik, a contributor to Tab Journal (Volume 8, Issue 4), has written about the covid long haul at About Place Journal. The opening lines capture the sense of chronic autoimmune dysregulation:

lignum vitae, wood
so dense it doesn’t float

I’ve been reduced to not being able to stand up in the shower 

poetic, considering how much
the wood has given to ocean travel

Even reading a book is challenging and exhausting

an escaped ornamental
pruned to maintain a narrower profile

I don’t understand what’s happening in my body

Kadijah Queen wrote of the pandemic for Harper’s:

Asthma and other chronic health issues keep both my son and my mother at risk; my mother takes so much medication we have an Excel spreadsheet to keep track. They’ve sheltered in place for eight weeks. I’m at risk, too, but I try not to think about it.

Used to be I could rest through fibromyalgia flares, recover. Now I depend on balms and pills to keep going through the pain. Dr. Bob’s, vapor rub, Papa Rozier balm, Aleve PM, Benadryl, charcoal bath salts, lavender oil. Make a pleasure of coffee or espresso for the fatigue. Bless Nespresso machines. Elvazio, Melozio, Hazelino, Voltesso. Solelio for something lighter, if I have to wake up but know I’ll need sleep later.

Her latest poetry book, Anodyne. It’s title refers to something that alleviates pain. Anodyne won the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America. Queen, who has fibromyalgia, told Boulder Weekly the following when the book came out:

I think in terms of health and disease and disability, there’s this really negative language around it,” Queen says. “When in fact we’re all gonna deal with health issues, so why are we hiding it, trying to suppress talking about it, saying, ‘It’ll be OK,’ or just medicating it? And why is the language around it so ugly? Why do we not have more natural and compassionate ways of talking about the aging process? Why are we not creating more places for care that don’t feel like you’re just dropping your parent off somewhere to die? … I think we’re missing real care.

If O’Rourke is right, we’ll understand more in the months and years to come. And yet Edison’s words from “Here, Ellipses” will always be a crucial question:

And we wonder
Who is essential expendable

And we call each other saying—How
you holding up
How you holding
How you

Events More about TAB

March: Brain Injury Awareness Month at Tab

March is Brain Injury Awareness Month, and Tab Journal asked Chapman University MFA alum and former staff Jason Thornberry to share his experiences. You can follow Jason @thornberryjm on Twitter.

TBI & what is normal?

After my traumatic brain injury, when I returned—pale and disoriented—from the flickering grey atmosphere of the hospital to the real world, I felt completely alone. With a passport stamped in my own blood, I sought to resume my normal life. But what was normal—and what of my life remained? 

My relationships were scattered on the wind of my lengthy recovery. The wind moaned, pushing me toward my mother and away from my father. My father, with whom I argued violently over the telephone that night—the night I was injured. I recall one of us hanging up on the other. Was it me? Was it him? I don’t remember. I remember an overwhelming rush of silence filling the void at the end of our call—the statement implied by the force of a hand smashing a landline back into its cradle. The muted click as the call was severed. Yes, maybe it was him. 

My mother blamed him for inspiring me to drink so much that night—the night a pair of strangers savagely beat me. The night that changed my life forever. When I was released, my father visited me. He posed with me for a picture in the grass outside my mother’s home, standing behind my wheelchair. I sat stiffly, feeling his hands on my shoulders. A few days later, we argued over the phone once more, and nine years passed before we saw each other again. Without him, I depended on my mother to guide me through the arduous depths of my outpatient therapy and my lengthy recovery. My mother and I became close for the first time. Later, when I exerted my independence by moving out of state with my then-girlfriend-now-wife, cracks developed in my relationship with my mother, opening the ground between us. I haven’t spoken with her in months. 

Before my father and I fell out, and before that fate-soaked night, I lived with my two best friends. We were in a band together: a trio. We recorded and performed and made plans to tour the country together, to flourish beyond the anonymity of our day jobs together. They visited me there in my flickering grey room. As I looked up at them from my hospital bed, we talked about the future. When I was released, they moved away, taking our friendship with them. Twenty-two years later, I bumped into one. She said our other bandmate was officially homeless now, living somewhere on the streets of Los Angeles. The overwhelming rush of silence filling the void as I received this information reminded me later of that night when I held the telephone. She broke the silence to ask me what I was doing, gesturing toward the papers on the coffeehouse table. I said I was writing. 

Reading with TBI. Writing with TBI.

I find my voice through writing and reading. I seek alternate worlds—not in deep futuristic space, but here—where I can live in someone else’s skin, where I can breathe the same air, sharing their triumphs and struggles, seeing things from their perspective. I inhabit the deceptively simple, sculpted sentences of Toni Morrison and the hideous suffering of her characters; I observe the muddled turmoil of humanity through the eyes of Verlyn Klinkenborg’s blinking tortoise; I soar like Wordsworth’s bees, murmuring by the hour in foxglove bells. I live again. And again.

Thinking of embodiment (and of empathy), I revisit the words of Gregory Orr. When Orr describes, in his poem “Trauma (Storm),” hunkering down within “the cave of self,” the place where he escapes the raging world, I see my trauma made flesh. I experience, again, the glowing pain I felt after waking from my coma. I feel the brusquely indifferent hands of nurses transferring my twisted form from gurney to gurney and place to place like a portable autopsy. I hear the monotonous beeping of MRIs and CT scans in arctic chambers of the hospital and the pathokinesiology study I underwent before a panel of puzzled physicians. The physicians took notes, muttering amongst themselves as they watched me hobbling in pain, crossing the room in front of them like a tortoise. By meditating on Orr’s poetry, I feel liberated from memories of my past by living in his skin, donning the mask of Cain he wore after the accidental death of his brother and—and by the subsequent death of his mother, two years later.

Orr uses poetry, he says, to survive the “emotional chaos, spiritual confusions, and [the] traumatic events that come with being alive.” When I found myself in this same silent cavern of isolation, confusion, and guilt, I recognized that writing was my only way out in the years following my injury. And I find now, in Orr, a kindred spirit. His words remind me I’m not alone.

Read poems by Jason Thornberry

Residue of Yesterday,” OPEN: Journal of Arts & Letters (January 2022)

Two Poems: “California” & “My Landlord’s Landlord,” Poor Yorick Literary Magazine (December 2021)

Three Poems: “Cobwebs,” “The Foghorn,” and “Toward Medallions of Broken Glass”, The Antonym Magazine (May 2021)


Read Across America Day

March 2, 2022, is Read Across America Day!

What better way to celebrate reading than by perusing the poems in Tab Journal?

You can find the newest work in the Current Issue. Or can can spend your Read Across America Day in our online Archives.

Plus, we offer two ways to read most of our content–with your eyes or with your ears.

Events Important Update More about TAB

February: Low Vision Awareness Month at Tab

February is Low Vision Awareness Month. It’s a good time for Tab Journal to share our efforts over the last three years to welcome readers with low vision to the poetry we publish. Here’s an update, an overview, a trajectory–from Creative Director Claudine Jaenichen and Editor Anna Leahy.

Tab Journal‘s Vision of Low Vision

Because design has always been enormously important to how we approach poetry, Tab Journal isn’t like other literary journals. We consider ourselves designers and curators. When we say, “space before text,” we mean that design thinking extends both to textual content and to the space the work creates. We understand that form, format, and design of text and space can create various reading experiences. As part of our design thinking, Tab Journal is committed to creating an increasingly inclusive literary space, welcoming work that represents a variety of approaches and aesthetics, including work from those whose voices have been traditionally underrepresented in literary publishing.

Why consider low vision?

If you have high vision, it’s important to keep in mind that millions of Americans don’t. Many of us use assistive devices like contact lenses or glasses, but those devices don’t work equally as well for everyone. Take a look at versions of what those with age-related macular degeneration or cataracts see, and consider what these videos suggest about the various ways people see the world.

What does this have to do with poetry?

Tab Journal‘s January 2019 issue was printed on velum that allowed content from other pages to seep through. This meant that reading a page was filled with external visual noise that the reader had to negotiate. We designed an intentionally challenging reading experience in which ease couldn’t be taken for granted. Moreover, the type size was only 8 points. That’s small but not unusual for books and magazines (though visual size is more accurately measured as x-height).

As we reflect on our literary journal’s history and process, we look to this visually noisy issue as a pivotal moment. We realized that we had excluded readers who can, or would, engage with the poems.

At the same time, we were switching from the clunky Open Journals System platform to the current WordPress-based platform. We realized that our online issues—the PDF files of our archives—were impossible for e-readers to follow.

Access in the form of readability matters, perhaps especially in poetry. Because each word of a poem matters, readability is important.

What changed?

Beginning with our print issue in 2020, Tab Journal shifted the visual experience and design to prioritize low vision standards. Low vision standards for graphic design include clear headlines, color to ensure enough contrast and color pairing to accommodate people with color blindness, typographic legibility and readability, and printing surfaces that minimize glare.

Tab Journal now uses a standard type size range between 13 and 18 points in the annual printed issues and considers the fonts and weights (e.g. bold, medium, regular) can be applied for optimum legibility. Typefaces that are too wide or too narrow (such as condensed fonts) impede legibility. In the 2022 issue, we used Atkinson Hyperlegible font designed by Linus Boman with the Braille Institute. You can download the font for free at

Tab Journal is also minimizing the use of all capital letters. Using all caps can sometimes be read as individual letters by assistive technology instead of as words. That’s why we now use Tab Journal as much as possible instead of the official name (TAB: The Journal of Poetry & Poetics) under which the journal’s ISBN is registered. We continue to consider the research on reading ease and speed as well as options for using all caps or other visual signals, knowing that defaults are also part of our constraints.

Readability is also based on line lengths and column width. In poetry, column widths and the line lengths are determined by the poem, and we make sure that typographic attributes represent the poem in the most legible format.

What does this mean?

We offer two issues below of examples that demonstrate both an inaccessible format (2019) and low vision complaint issue (2020).

What’s next?

As part of our effort to ensure an equitable experience of our journal for everyone, we are developing more training in 508-compliance to meet a wider range of adaptive and assistive technologies. Section 508 was signed into law as part of the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1998 to ensure that access to electronic and information technology is created and accessible to people with disabilities.

This year, we have applied for external funding to further our efforts in low vision accessibility and other ways we can increase equity and inclusion overall in literary journal production. We recognize the need for the literary culture to account for accessibility when we consider resource allocation.

Events Poem Prompt

Poem Prompt: National Backwards Day

Who cares where National Backwards Day came from? It’s a great excuse to shake up our (poetry) habits and celebrate the end of January.

Here are a few suggestions for celebrating National Backwards Day:

  • dinner for breakfast & breakfast for dinner
  • say goodbye when you arrive & hello when you leave
  • wear your socks inside out or your shirt backwards
  • (for the disgruntled) turn your back in your online meeting (lower risk by turning camera off)

Of course, those of us at Tab Journal think the best way for poets to celebrate National Backwards Day is to write–or rather, revise–a poem backwards. Here are three ways to rework a draft from end to beginning:

  1. Cut and paste (or rewrite by hand) the last line first, the penultimate line second, the third-to-last line next, and so on through the whole poem. Don’t worry about syntax, punctuation, or meaning until all the lines are in the new order. Once you have a backwards version, treat that as the draft to revise. Think especially about how the reader enters the poem and the different effect this new ending has.
  2. Keep the lines in order, but reorder the words within some or all of the lines. The reordering may create a confusing jumble, and that’s okay. Go with it. You may notice different challenges depending on whether a line is end stopped or enjambed. Let’s take an example from Robert Frost, who sometimes inverts expected syntax. This sort of reordering may require some not-quite-backwards moves or changes in parts of speech if you want the language to make sense, but keep your idea of sense capacious.

    My long two-pointed ladder’s sticking through a tree 
    Toward heaven still, 
    And there’s a barrel that I didn’t fill 
    Beside it, and there may be two or three 
    Apples I didn’t pick upon some bough. 

    Might become:

    A tree through sticks laddered long my two-pointed
    Heaven still toward
    Filling. Didn’t I barrel that there and
    Three or two may be there and it beside
    Some bough upon which I didn’t pick apples.

  3. Another way of defining backwards is as opposite. Often, we write the opposite of something word by word, the whole ends up meaning almost the same as the original because of the layers of negation. Often, a word doesn’t have an authentic opposite. But that’s no reason not to try this kind of revision.

    Your short unpointed tunnel’s burying out of that root 
    Away from hell no more, 
    But here’s this uncontainer that you emptied 
    On top of it, but here may not be any 
    Oranges you put under that root. 

    Okay, not great, but what might we do with words like unpointed, uncontainer, and under, words we might not have come up with–or come up with together–without this exercise in backwardness?

Cheers to backwards! Celebrate poetry whenever you can!


Tabula Poetica Series

Tabula Poetica announces the visiting poets for our annual series of talks and readings. As always, Tabula Poetica events are free and open to the public, and the Fall 2020 will be live-streamed on Facebook and YouTube for the first time.

three poetry books: why can't it be tenderness, all things lose thousands of times, street gloss

Monday, October 5: Michelle Brittan Rosado
Poetry Talk at 2:30pm | Poetry Reading at 7pm
author website

Monday, October 19: Angela Peñaredondo
Poetry Talk at 2:30pm | Poetry Reading at 7pm
more about this poet

Monday, November 9: Brent Armendinger
Poetry Talk at 2:30pm | Poetry Reading at 7pm
author website

Monday, December 14: MFA Poetry Reading
Poetry Reading at 7pm

Special thanks to this year’s guest curator, Genevieve Kaplan, and to Samantha de la O for coordinating the logistics.

Note that all times are Pacific Time, and these events are sponsored by the Department of English at Chapman University and Tabula Poetica.

Events Exciting News

TAB: MFA Poetry Reading

Poetry students in the Chapman University MFA in Creative Writing will read from their work on Tuesday, May 19, at 7pm (PDT). Because of the global pandemic, this end-of-year celebration reading will be held online and hosted by Jim Blaylock (acting director) David Krausman (graduate programs coordinator).

TAB is housed at Chapman University, and students and alums of the MFA program serve on the staff. It’s difficult not to be able to celebrate their growth and achievements in person this May, so we’re making do with the opportunities we have. We’re incredibly proud of these students individually and together.