Buddhist Recovery Network book review

The Breath of Surrender

“The Breath of Surrender: A collection of recovery-oriented haiku”

Edited by Robert Epstein
Modern English Tanka Press, Baltimore, Maryland, USA. publisher at themetpress dot com, 2009.
ISBN 978-193539814-1
Paperback. 91 pages.

School/perspective: Zen Buddhism and AA


Selected excerpts:

“Herein lies the root connection between haiku and recovery: Both are informed by the unceasing breath of surrender, whose Latin root means “to give back to”. The haiku poet surrenders to Nature in the here-and-now such that the self-as-separate disappears; the recovering alcoholic or addict surrenders to his/her Higher Power (however that is defined) such that he or she returns to living Life on Life’s terms, one day at a time. One day at a time is long-hand for the present or, as Zen Buddhists are fond of saying, the Eternal Now.”

“A stand of trembling aspen.
First AA meeting.”
- George Matey, bear creek haiku, 83 (p. 40)

“ex-junkie -
two bags
in his teacup.”
- Owen Bullock, Frogpond, 25:3 (p. 51)

on my zazen cushion -
the serenity prayer.”
- ct (p. 57)

not one day at a time
one breath.”
- Anonymous (p. 87)

“he stands beneath
the cedars of Alanon
just twelve steps
from where I turn
twenty-one again.”
- ct (p. 90)

© 2009 Robert Epstein



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Reviews posted:

Paul -

Robert Epstein, a haiku poet and psychotherapist, has assembled this beautiful collection of recovery-oriented haiku, drawn from a number of different authors and sources. It is apparently the first collection of its kind. There is a strong Twelve Step theme, and irrespective of your addiction you should find verses here that resonate, sometimes humorously, sometimes poignantly. I read it through quickly the first time in one sitting, letting the words play over me, feeling little stabs of recognition, flashes of humour and pathos. Then I re-read it a couple more times, reflecting more deeply on some of them. The typesetting of two haiku to a page gives the volume a very spacious feel, conducive to reflection.

Kevin Griffin -

(As published on the book’s jacket)
“These haiku are tragic, funny, clever and moving. In bite-sized pieces of wisdom and insight “The Breath of Surrender” sheds light, opens doors, and touches hearts on the path of recovery. What joy!”

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