Don’t let its diminutive packaging fool you: 5x5 packs a punch. Five poets and one visual artist (not counting the cover photo) packed into a saddle-stapled 5x5 journal that somewhat resembles a CD sleeve. It’s perfect to tuck into your pocket and share with others over coffee.
The theme for the Winter 2009 issue is “Loud.” But, as it says in the "From the Editor," loud is not just about noise: "I also remembered during the '80s my mother favored wearing loud tropical prints... I noticed 'loud' creeping into other words, 'cLOUD' which did not seem noisy at all." I love this appreciation of language, this willingness to explore the boundaries of words and ideas.
"Ten Inch Guns," by Ian Denning is the only fiction piece featured, and it plays interestingly with sound and the absence of sound. Taken from the point of view of a (military?) officer in training, the story is full of background noise: fellow officers shouting in a false Scottish brogue, a Sergeant walking down the line of bunks for inspection, a bucket of tools falling. All these sounds swirl around and through the narrator's head, but they don't seem to penetrate. In the final scene, the narrator, whose father is a fisherman, compares the sound and feeling of firing "the big gun" to being "thrust into deep water and just as suddenly withdrawn." The ever-present noise, and then lack thereof, contributes greatly to this short story's success.
The first nonfiction piece, "Petition the City" by Jonathan W. Sodt, deals with "loud" in the standard noisy way, but it's dramatic climax makes it a fun read. The second nonfiction piece, "Synonyms" by Nathan Burgoine deals with "loud" in a more subtle way, as in the expression "living life out loud." In it, the narrator struggles with whether or not to reveal his sexuality, and recent marriage, to a customer he has known for a long time. A reformed stutterer, Burgoine uses his life-long reliance on synonyms to capture the internal struggle of what gets spoken what does not: "I'm back in the linguistic minefield of my youth, this time not avoiding sounds but pronouns and titles."
My favorite use of "loud" is in Jenni B. Baker's poem "the german living on my couch." It's a short number, so I can't quote it without giving it away, but it might be the first time I've ever heard of someone described as smelling "loud." Baker has two other poems featured here, and they explore sound and memory and sound and knowledge. The other poetry selection, "Cockroach" by Ryler Dustin, is a poem that is beautiful despite its disgusting subject matter. What's worse than a cockroach? Having to kill a cockroach. The thought makes my skin crawl. Yet, Dustin manages in two stanzas to make the act a work of art.
5x5 certainly leaves a taste for more. It's compressed size means two things: there are no wasted words here, and I want more. Also, subscriptions are free for high school students, which is laudable, to say the least.