Quill & Quire Review - Sedley

Reviewed by: Stevie Howell

Sedley is populated with friends, family, and teachers, but land and weather combine as the main protagonist. Opening with the lines, "We smell Fall before we see it: / cinnamon, smoke, the sulphur spark," Coupal primes the reader for the passage of time as irrevocably intertwined with attunement to seasonal shifts. She illustrates how waiting (for rain, for the harvest, for the weekend) is a way of life.

The book is broken into four sections arranged in somewhat chronological order from adolescence to adulthood. These poems fluctuate between odes and laments, sometimes within the same stanza: "Some of us keep hope folded / in our pockets. The rest / have held it up to lighters." Coupal's use of form is sparing and effective – pantoum ("A Plain Run"), villanelle ("Her Own Fading Light"), and sestina ("Sestina for the Party") cycle through the pages like crops with different harvest dates.

While a few topics may be slightly overworked – there are ample descriptions of boredom and dust – there is an abundance of gorgeously rewarding stand-alone poems. "A Horse Named Breeze" is particularly poignant – the animal "had what looked like a map of the world // on his back" and "grazed a halo / around himself."

Coupal's book reframes the romanticized notion of wide open spaces as sites of claustrophobia: "We knew prairie could pin you / down to the ground like a graveyard cross, / so some of us couldn't leave, even if we wanted to." But having left, she is able to look at the town with the warmth that distance affords: "Love follows like a familiar horse: head low, / slow, ears forward. It doesn't charge or / rear up, just plods behind, trusting / I know the way home."

 

This is an excerpt from a review that originally appeared in Quill & Quire. To read the full review click here.

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