TAB: The Journal of Poetry and Poetics

I have been the Creative Director for TAB: The Journal of Poetry & Poetics, a national and international journal of creative and critical writing, since 2013. The approach of the collaborative creative process between Dr. Anna Leahy, Editor-in-Chief, has demonstrated true interdisciplinary work and exemplifies play, experimentation, accessibility, and inclusion.

Tab Journal’s mission is to discover, support, and publish the contemporary poetry and writing about poetry; to provide a forum in which the poetic tradition is practiced, extended, challenged, and discussed by emerging and established voices; and to encourage wide appreciation of poetry and expand the audience for poems and writing about poetry.

The print issues of the Tab Journal are special editions, each published at the beginning of the calendar year. These issues reflect Tab Journal’s mission to create an environment that celebrates poetry in various forms and venues. The annual print issue engages the reader with poetry as a material object and asks that the reader negotiate between image and text.

Vol. 9 (2021)

print issue volume. 9

The 2021 print issue of Tab Journal was created during a time of quarantine as the world underwent the isolation and anxieties of the Covid-19 pandemic. During this time, we reflected on concepts of time—as a sense of place, as space, as structure, as the visual experience of light and dark. Time has an impact on psychology; we can lose time or lose track of time. Time has a history of visual representation and documentation as well. This year’s print issue explores visual expressions of time warping, time-traveling, and the chronology and the kaleidoscope of time-keeping. In this issue, the images and texts engage in ideas of process over time, such as healing or growth. The large-format newsprint suggests additional ways to consider time, history, and cultural documents.

We usually do not share the entirety of the print issue online because it is designed specifically for the print medium and in a new format each year. In part because covid restrictions in Southern California have slowed our efforts to mail the print issue, we are making an exception. Below is the full pdf of the print issue itself, in addition to all the poems in audio format, which we had planned for increased accessibility. Keep in mind that we used large-format newsprint this year; the reading experience is quite different on a screen, as the relationships across poems and between text and image is altered.

We plan to mail the print issue to all Tab  contributors (from all nine volumes!) by February 12. Teachers and librarians who would like to distribute copies of the print issue for discussion can use the Contact form to request a batch. The online issues in the 2021 volume of Tab Journal will pick up elements of the print issue’s design, and the website has been updated to reflect Volume 9.

The newspaper opens into broadsheet posters:

Vol. 8 (2020)

print issue volume. 8

The 2020 print issue was driven by inclusive design and low-vision principles. We aimed to produce an equitable and engaging experience with diverse sight abilities.

In 1840, William Moon developed an embossed reading system for the blind that was less complex than learning Braille. The Moon system was particularly useful for people who had lost their sight later in life because the Roman alphabet had already been deeply rooted in their cognitive recognition and recall and proved easier to learn than the abstract system of Braille. Moon’s system could be taught and learned in only a few days.

Color blocking was applied with the same approach Oliver Byrne applied in The Elements of Euclid in1847 for the ease of learning. Colors and geometric blocking similar to Byrne’s helped demarcate content and organize reading experience while still maintaining the intended interactive experience. The design also used a matte finish and increased contrast for readers with varying contrast sensitivity. 

In addition to the visual elements, the pages of the 2020 print issue of Tab Journal were not pages so much as a set of twelve rectangular cards on which some poems appear vertically and others appear horizontally. While the stack arrived with poems ordered alphabetically by last name of the poets, the contents were not paginated and can be shuffled and read in any order.

Further, the cards were notched on all sides, which allows the reader to hook them together in various physical forms. It’s relatively straightforward to build a structure that reorients the poems. As with previous print-issue designs, this year’s encourages readers to be aware of reading as an experience.

Vol. 7 (2019)

print issue volume. 7

The 2019 print issue explores the concept of containment, of a poem as container that delivers words to the reader’s eyes and ears, and of paper and typography as containers. The visual language in this issue experiments with tags, labels, tracking methods, scanning, etc., upon which we rely for accurate delivery and that reveal the final experience contained within and across pages. The materials used in this issue play with transparency and hiding what is contained. Printed on translucent vellum, 4-color digital.

Vol. 6 (2018)

print issue volume. 6

The 2018 print issue amplifies the qualities in aesthetics and materials of ephemera as the main framework to poetry. Photography by Damien Gautier were rearranged, sliced, and layered to call attention to the arbitrary size and two dimensions of both the physical photograph and the postcard. In today’s world of excessive materials in a disposable culture, we revisit the function and permanence in a collection of postcards. We examine the origin and value of a postcard as a record of personal travel, propaganda, and advertisement and how some collections end up being documents of preservation.

Damien Gautier contributes his photography of urban typography showcasing various words, letters, and signs (Gautier’s original photography is displayed on the last bottom right postcard).

Vol. 5 (2017)

print issue volume. 5

The 2017 print issue examines the effects of noise and text delivered to the reader as visual volumes on multifaceted layers. Textures and patterns act as a sounding board, adding a variety of tones intended to create an atmospheric pairing with the poems themselves. There are 3 booklets, each 16-pages. The largest booklet (9 x 12) include paired poets between mentee and mentor. The middle booklet (5 x 8) are single poets and the smallest (3 x 6) is a bio/reading list mini catalog.

Vol. 4 (2016)

print issue volume. 4

The 2016 print issue explores the representation of energy. Energy is best conveyed by experience, in context, generating an emotional effect. Yet, we learn energy in 2-dimensional static visual representations like weather system reports, combinations of molecules, and diagrams like the ones used to explain the energy forces of how the Twin Towers collapsed during 9/11. This issue contains four energy panels (movement, connection, destruction, sustaining) dedicated to the exploration and relationship among diagrammatic representations, the expression of energy, and poetry. Diagrams interact with text and visual compositions that occupy the space and create new visual representations of energy. The contrast and radiance of the back panels is a complete manipulation of diagrammatic language, returning movement, and chaos that leaves an emotional imprint to the experience of the viewer.

Perforated panels empower the reader to redirect energies, recreate sequence and narrative. Front panels were printed using offset 4-color process and back panels were printed 2-color with florescent and black Pantones.

Featured in the OC Register (print and online. Feb. 8 2016):

Front/Back Connection Panels

Front/Back Destruction Panels

Front/Back Movement Panels

Front/Back Sustaining Panels

Vol. 3 (2015)

print issue volume. 3

The 2015 print issue explores mapping as place, location, and orientation. The journal’s design this year encourages reading mindfulness with the intention of getting lost, disoriented, having to navigate a way through as someone might navigate a journey and encourage discovery. The journal emphasizes the iconic ritual of unfolding and refolding maps and also the visual weight of traditional street maps in order to communicate credibility and an authoritative source of being an actual place. But this place is no place.

We examined work by Jacques Bertin, a French cartographer and a visual semiotician. In his book, The Semiology of Graphics, he synthesized design principals with rules applied to writing and topography. His work was dedicated to the study of visual variables (shape, orientation, color, texture, volume, and scale) of maps and diagrams to code visual combinations that would create successful map-reading objectives. We challenge these guidelines by employing visual variables associated with illegibility, including graphic density and angular illegibility. The front side of the map, which contains the poems, tightly compresses layers between text and texture, eliminating hierarchy and contrast. There is no right side up so disorientation is part of the reading experience. This is further emphasized by orientation conflict in which each poem is placed on its own angled baseline.

This back side of the map provides information about the authors. In order to discover the author of a poem, the reader must flip between the front and back of the map to determine its placement on the latitude and longitude grid. This side of the map uses photography of places so specific that the reader is excluded from knowing the place. With the common use of GPS and everyday devices that lead the way rather than show the way, this print issue empowers the reader to lead their own way.

Vol. 2 (2014)

print issue volume. 2

The 2014 print issue embodies an expression of time and space. From beginning of the journal, each page employs atmospheric and, at times, abstract photography of the sky taken at different times of the day. Text has been placed within various objects specifically chosen to interact with light. These objects include water, glass, blinds, wrinkled paper, and windows. The sequence of time is reflected in the progression of the journal, beginning with morning light and moving to night. Experimentation with space is conveyed through the different voices of the authors included in this issue. The issue’s spine is unorthodox, creating unexpected vertical and horizontal movement in the reading experience. The physicality of the object forces the reader to acknowledge its presence. The life of this interactivity becomes an individual journey of pages unwilling to be turned passively. The space in this issue challenges readers to take in more than merely text and image but also a full-body experience of holding and disorientation.

Vol. 1 (2013)

print issue volume. 1

The design of this first issue does not assume a traditional role of quietly framing content; instead, design actively shapes the reading of the entire page. The special print editions of Tab Journal will continue to experiment and explore the intersections between form and content, object and space, and reader and reading.

Quarterly electronic issues follow each annual printed issue. Using these differing formats—print and digital—allows experimentation with design and materiality in a time when print and electronic dissemination coexist. Tab Journal will not force either format to adapt to the other. The reading experience in virtual spaces is different than that of a printed journal. The electronic issues are provided on the Tab Journal‘s website at While the electronic files can be printed, each electronic issue will be formatted for ease of reading on the screen. Decisions about page size, typography, and composition are driven by the online reading experience, rather than to merely mimic a print version. Tab Journal also makes use of the audio/video possibilities of digital dissemination.

To order a copy of the print issue, please send a check for $10 made out to Chapman University to TAB: The Journal of Poetry & Poetics, Department of English, Chapman University, One University Drive, Orange, CA 92866. Tab Journal will be available at the AWP book fair.