10 August 2018

by Chelsea Coupal
Published by Coteau Books
Review by Ben Charles
ISBN 9781550509410 $17.95

Sedley, written by Chelsea Coupal, is a delightful and insightful reflection of life in small-town Saskatchewan that had me smiling from the first page to the last. This collection of poems that Coupal has so masterfully penned is a wonderful commentary of the author’s life and experiences growing up in the town of Sedley, SK, a small village located forty kilometres South-East of Regina, SK.

When people think of life in small-town Saskatchewan they usually conjure images of tractors consuming the entire highway, dusty farmyards, abandoned movie theatres, and the antics of the characters from Corner Gas. While some of these themes are present, Coupal also captures the magic, beauty, tragedy, and inexplicable weirdness that come with growing up in rural Saskatchewan. As I was born and raised in a small village in Saskatchewan myself, I could not help but feel nostalgic and chuckle as I read such poems as, “The Drive Home”, or “Party”. Coupal’s eerily accurate descriptions of remedies to teenage boredom reminded me of my own young misadventures getting in trouble at parties, driving aimlessly on the grid roads, talking smack about the kids from neighbouring towns, running from the RCMP, and of course smoking cigarettes and maybe having one too many Pilsners.

On the other hand, and unfortunately just as relatable, the poems “Ms. Williams” and “Jake” are poignant and riveting recollections of how unexpected tragedy can slice a village to the very core. Tragedy and unexpected deaths always bring people together in the tight-knit communities that we have here at home- for better or for worse. “Ms. Williams” recounts a tragic accident that results in the untimely death of a teacher, and people rush to the scene to help in any way that they can, or simply gather to be there for the members of their communities. Coupal’s powerful yet subtle words on this matter left a great impression on me and with much inner thought. I could not help but think of the recent bus crash that tragically ended the lives of sixteen people within the Humboldt Broncos. Just like in Coupal’s poem the people of Saskatchewan, being the large rectangular small-town that it is, came together to help the families, strengthen the bond in our province, and celebrate life.

In summary, Sedley is an absolute treat for poetry fans and for small-town Saskatchewan folks who want to feel right at home again. Chelsea Coupal is an immensely talented poet with an extraordinary ability to show the reader that the mundane is, in fact, extraordinary. Coupal’s breath-taking descriptions of Saskatchewan nature, commentary on the stress of the economic uncertainty of agriculture, and the trials and tribulations of growing up all fit together to create a brilliant slice Canadiana. It has left a lasting impression on me and I know that I will find myself picking it up again and again.


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