Confessions from the Sick Bay — A Review

The kind people at 5ever books have provided us with a copy of Crude Common Denominator Pleb Trash Baseline Urge Ass Poetry: Confessions from the Sick Bay to give away to one of your folks! If you’re interested in adding this book to your collection, head over to our Instagram page (@badapple.gay) and leave a comment on the post for this review!

Zinefest is a community-run weekend market of self-made comics, zines, and art. I attended the most recent market in Wellington, spanning the weekend of October 15–16, with bad apple lead editor Damien. It is beautiful to see the community come together to support each other and share the magic they create. If you’ve never been, I highly recommend attending the next market, or any of the various art markets held regularly across the country.

While there we stopped for a time at the 5ever books stall and chatted briefly with the two lovely humans running the stall. They pointed out their most recent publication, a collaborative collection of poetry called Crude Common Denominator Pleb Trash Baseline Urge Ass Poetry: Confessions From The Sick Bay. The title alone endeared me enough to snag a copy, but the psychedelic cover didn’t hurt either.

5ever books is self-described as “an underground publishing house based at Rebel Press, Trade Hall in Te Whanganui-a-Tara,” with a goal to “publish punchy, intense and interdisciplinary work, woven together by a shared transformational kaupapa.” I had heard of them previously through an old co-worker, but this is the first time reading anything they have produced.

Written sporadically from 2015 to 2019, and then left largely unedited, Confessions “retains the raw and experimental nature of the work because to refine it would be to lose the essence of it, the point of the project.” The authors, Max and Olive—half of the 5ever books team—wrote it collaboratively across several Google Docs, and held no limits on what they would create together.

The work born out of this collaboration is experimental, absurd, and thought-provoking. Nearly every poem has a different font, style, and typesetting. Some flow as a conversation between two undescribed entities, while others spread across the page as if the stanzas have been dropped willy-nilly. The poems range through topics such as sexuality, gender, bodies, relationships, rape culture, and God. It is a trip of a book, and in starting each poem I had no idea what I was about to read. 

One stanza in particular that stood out to me was a part of ‘1.4 in the sick bay’. It acts as a moment of dense sadness in a book brimming with hyperactivity, focusing on the inherent sadness of having a sick body that isn’t working as most others do. It could also refer to emotional nourishment, and not being able to listen to your body and mind to do what you need to be happy. It is the bleak reality of our lives as humans, something I think that this book captures very well overall.

Not knowing how to be nourished by things is a curse

Ingesting poison peer pressure


my sadnesses have come out of the back of where i was holding them

I will say I have never read anything like Confessions before and while it was challenging and confusing at times, I did enjoy the rollercoaster of writing that it was. I found myself laughing and questioning, and I think that means the collection achieved its goal. Poetry is a conveying of emotion; an art form to provoke thought and introspection. Max and Olive have managed to funnel these aims through text speak and unorthodox structuring, all while examining what it means to be human. 

I doubt I will ever read a book like this again, purely because I think both Max and Olive have brought something so fresh to their collaboration and figured out how to meld them perfectly together. Confessions is unique, and if it is any indication of the work 5ever books is producing, then I know I will be keeping my eyes peeled for more of their work in the future.

Featured image courtesy of 5ever books.


In a dream, you saw a way to survive, and you were filled with joy.


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