Saskatoon StarPhoenix Review - Sedley
Reviewed by: Bill Robertson
And finally, a famous Canadian writer once said, don’t write about your hometown: you’ll either offend someone or everyone will want you to be the town’s spokesperson, a booster. Regina poet Chelsea Coupal doesn’t even try to hide her connection behind a fictionalized name. Sedley is where she’s from, Sedley’s the name of her first collection (Coteau, $17.95) and two poems inside, and you can find Sedley on highway 33 just southeast of Regina.
Throwing caution to the wind, Coupal has taken on the job and, wise words to the contrary, succeeds admirably in painting a measured, loving, occasionally caustic, often blistering portrait of a small farming community that can’t promise much anymore but gives what it can. Coupal, as a perceptive and sensitive witness, takes the best, lays out a bit of the worst mixed in with the funny and the heartbreaking, and heads for the city to learn to be a writer.
Many of these poems bear the mark of university creative writing classes, sestinas to sonnets mixed among the basic free verse. Sestina for the Party hits the right notes on one of those rural affairs where young folk stand in small circles, drinking beer and listening to music, trying to figure out sex and economics, while The Full Moon, a Yard Light is almost perfect in its depiction of young people exploring an abandoned farmhouse and its symbolic implications for them, farm children who may or may not inherit this life, or even want to.
Her poem of her mother and father meeting in Ms. Douglas is a good laugh, The Sky is Red is both frank and jarring in its march through metaphor, and We Knew is a fiercely honest picture of young people seeing through a parent’s alcoholism, another’s financial ruin, and school room cruelties straight to the inevitable: “We began to see that death// walks steadily forward, doesn’t rush or get tired,/ just walks endlessly, calmly.” So, too, does this collection, look calmly at Sedley and take its full measure. A brave beginning.
This review was part of the article Collection of Poems that appeared in the StarPhoenix on July 1, 2018. To read the full article click here.