Book Review: Singing in the Silo

The poems quoted are copyright Philomene Kocher.

Published in The Leaf, #36, Spring 2015. The Leaf is a publication of Brucedale Press.


Singing in the Silo by Philomene Kocher

Reviewed by Ruth Mittelholtz

Philomene Kocher’s poetry, as she tells us in her biography, is inspired by her love of nature and her faith in the healing power of beauty. As I read her contemporary poems rooted in the Japanese poetic traditions of haiku, tanka and haibun, I find also the recurring theme of deep connection to family, friends and place. Place for Kocher is the farm near Hepworth where she grew up, and Kingston, her home for the last thirty years.

Many readers who spent their early years on farms, and those who didn’t, will recognize the nostalgia expressed in this haiku:

decades since
we made maple syrup
the tug each spring

It has been said that the haiku poet creates half the poem and the reader finishes it.

no words
just the rise and fall
of their voices

In the above poem Kocher shares her experience in the spare language and clear imagery that is the sought-after ideal in the practice of haiku, and then gives us the freedom to roam.

Tanka, in contrast to the objectivity of haiku, traditionally express personal feelings, directly and lyrically.

a week since the close call
I stop to watch the birds bathing
in a puddle
& am stunned by the beauty
of sun-lit drops of water

Kocher’s haibun, not illustrated in this brief review, are equally expressive. (Haibun combine prose story and haiku).

Disclosure: I am acquainted with Kocher though attendance at several Haiku Canada annual conferences. Having said that, I add: readers who love Japanese short-form poetry, or poetry in general, or language that speaks clearly and concisely from the heart, to the heart, will treasure Singing in the Silo.

The book is attractively designed and includes several of Kocher’s photographs. With one to three poems per page, there is room for the poems to breathe, and for the reader to ruminate.

Kocher has been writing Japanese-style poetry since 1991. Her poetry has appeared in publications in Canada, the United States and Japan. Active with Haiku Canada, she has served on the executive for twelve years.

Singing in the Silo,  ISBN 978-0-9880784-9-9  62 pages

catkin press, Carleton Place, Ontario, Canada

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The book is available at public libraries in Bruce County and in Owen Sound

The Leaf is published twice yearly by The Brucedale Press, Box 2259, Port Elgin Ontario, N0H 2C0;