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Tab Journal is now open for submissions!
Tab Journal is now seeking poems for our March and July issues. In addition, we consider critical and creative essays and art–poetry pieces. If your work has something to do with poetry, send it our way.
To get a better idea of the range of what Tab Journal publishes, browse through the Archives. In a recent Tab Musings post, we also recently discussed “How We Read Poems.” You may also want to take a look at the increasingly diverse Tab Staff. We welcome submissions from writers with a variety of backgrounds, experiences, voices, and aesthetics.
The Tab Staff also write book reviews and interviews. If you are an author or a publisher with a book forthcoming in 2021, use the Contact form to query. While we prefer hard copies for review, we are currently restricted on office use because of the pandemic.
Tab staffers Sam Risak and Tryphena Yeboah, along with Tab Editor Anna Leahy, wrote about the pandemic-instigated switch from in-person to online events for Literary Hub. They interviewed event organizers from book stores, festivals and conferences, universities, and more. The article asks what engagement and sales means for literary culture going forward. Check out “What Happens When Literary Events Move Online?“
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.
Two of Brian Satrom‘s poems appeared in the March 2015 issue of Tab Journal. Now, “From Within” and “Farther Than I Thought” are part of his first book, Starting Again.
Genevieve Kaplan‘s new book, (aviary), is now available. Genevieve is the Guest Curator for the 2020 Tabula Poetica reading series. Her poetry first appeared in Tab Journal n the March 2016 issue and also appeared in the September 2017 issue, when she was a visiting poet in the Tabula Poetica series. She started teaching at Chapman University the following year.
Katherine E. Young‘s poem also appeared in the July 2020 issue. She recently appeared on Accents Radio Show to talk with Katerina Stoykova about translation. A review of a book Katerina translated appeared in the July 2017 issue of Tab Journal.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Tab Journal staffers continue to work remotely this summer. While the pandemic slowed us down at first, we’re up to speed now, and the July issue is in production. We’re busy reviewing the submissions of Book-Spine Poems for Pandemic Times to be featured in the September issue. And we’re already filling the November issue and discussing design possibilities for next year’s print issue scheduled for January.
Because of all this, poem submissions are on hold for the time being, and we’ll put a hold on all other submissions soon. If you plan to submit to Tab Journal, you’ll have to wait a bit. Check back in August, when submissions will likely reopen.
Also in August, the dates for the Tabula Poetica series will be announced. Each visiting poet gives both a Talk and a Reading, which are open to the public and connected to both creative writing and literature classes at Chapman University. The events this year will be hosted virtually, so we’re working this summer on the format and platform to ensure an engaging and accessible literary experience for everyone who wants to participate.
If you haven’t yet read the Current Issue of Tab Journal, please take the time soon. The May issue features poems about the California coast by K-12 students that will make you smile.
Also, please follow Tab Journal on Twitter and Facebook. You can sign up for our occasional newsletter at the bottom of any page of the website.
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.
[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.
Tab Journal Special Feature: Book-Spine Poems for Pandemic Times Submission Deadline: June 15, 2020 See guidelines on our Submittable page.
For this special project on book-spine pandemic poems, Tab Journal seeks work that is composed and formed by stacking books so that each title serves as a line in the poem. The subject or theme of the poem should be related to the global pandemic and the ways it affects our lives. As such, these poems will become a curated archive of our bookshelves during this historical moment as well as found-and-constructed literary and visual art using specific constraints across the many possible iterations.
In recent weeks, you may have seen some book-spine poems for pandemic times on social media, but this sort of project isn’t new. In 2013, New York-based artist Nina Kathchadourian published a collection of photographs 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.” We at Tab Journal have long been interested in this sort project that explores the relationship between text and image, various constraints that writers and artists choose or face, and ways “that books are objects designed to be handled.”
To submit a book-spine poem, please include:
a photograph of the book stack
the typed text of the poem
What to keep in mind as you prepare your book-spine poem for submission:
Avoid clutter in the background of the photograph.
The photograph should be high enough resolution (at least 300dpi at 100% scale) that it doesn’t get blurry when viewed at 4” x 6” size.
While the book titles are key, you might consider the typeface and spine color as well, or you may want to experiment with options if you have hardbacks with paper covers. Remember, for this project, image is text, and text is image.
The typed poem should maintain the line breaks established by the stack of books. However, feel free to consider punctuation, stanza breaks, and indents.
The text of poems published in Tab Journal will use our usual typeface family, Verdana, which includes italics and bold.
For this project only, it’s okay if the photograph (with or without typed text) has appeared on social media. However, the work you submit here must not have been published or distributed beyond your personal social media.
Chapman University (the institutional home of Tab Journal) shall have rights to publish electronically work accepted for this special feature. Publication rights revert to the author upon publication in Tab Journal, but we do retain permission to republish and to submit to other outlets such as the Pushcart Prizes. In addition, we require poets whose work is accepted to provide an audio file or give Tab Journal permission to make a recording.