Robert Epstein

Robert Epstein, a psychologist living and working in the San Francisco Bay Area, has published dozens of haiku anthologies and haiku books.


Epstein Front Cover for Website
The Haiku Way to Healing (2022)
Edited by Robert Epstein
Paperback; 295 pages.

(Soon to be available at Amazon.
U.S. residents may purchase directly through
Middle Island Press.)

With the rapid spread of Covid-19 and its variants that perpetuated a major pandemic, the world has been turned upside down for the first time in more than a hundred years. Certainly at the outset, many around the globe were hurled into a swirling state of anxiety, uncertainty, isolation, even panic. These disorienting reactions on the part of whole nations have mirrored the experience of individuals who are likewise thrust into crisis and confusion by the onset of illness, injury, pain or trauma whether physical, psychological or emotional. This reality throws into sharp relief just how much we are all fundamentally a part of one family––the human family. In these pages, poets and artists share their profound, poignant and passionate perspectives on what it is like to navigate the hardships of health challenges and to learn from them in the spirit of resilience and perseverance. Read and remember––whether well or ill––you, too, have access to wholeness, which is the heart of all healing that transcends the limiting notion of cure.

she asks me
for a healing spell—
yet her own words
shimmer like starlight
in the depths of an inner well

~ Jenny Ward Angyal

Corona again
her forgotten doll fills
the garden bench

~ Inas Asfari

after the plane crash
every color
every breath

~ Gary Evans

the clear crisp sparkle
of a dewdrop

~ Ed Markowski

Epstein Checkout Noon Cover

Checkout Time is Noon: Death Awareness Haiku
Tenth Anniversary Edition, 2022
ISBN  979-8776542596
By Robert Epstein
Paperback; 105 pages. $12.00.

(Available at Amazon.)

The great poet Rilke declared: “There is no task as urgent for us as to learn daily how to die.” Yet, how many of us actually live our dying? To be born is to die. Few appear willing to die psychologically moment after moment, and yet it is this very dying that is essential if one is to encounter the Eternal Now, where all true life takes place. Described as “wordless” because intuition relies on a pre-reflective form of knowing, haiku appears perfectly suited to shed light on cracks in the night that reveal the unborn and deathless right in the midst of our living-and-dying. This is the essence of death awareness haiku–a poetry of truth, love, and freedom. Will you wake up with former US Poet Laureate, Billy Collins, who wryly insists: “Death is what gets poets up in the

zen garden
stands out
that way home
cherry blossoms
coyote tracks
I follow them
to the end of time
in pine shade
for a while I forget
this life will end
indigo night
in the cricket’s song
no birth no death

The Helping Hand Haiku Anthology (2020)
ISBN 979-8-691997808
Edited by Robert Epstein
Paperback; 287 pages. $19.

(Available at Amazon and directly through Middle Island Press via PayPal.)

Helping or serving is not only vital for survival, it is essential to living fully. As human beings, we all depend on one another in a myriad of ways. Across the spectrum, the coronavirus pandemic has magnified the urgency of mutual care and kindness like nothing else. Through acts of love, generosity, giving, sharing and caring, we make life a little easier, a little more bearable, for one another. We elevate ourselves in doing so and thereby embody the better angels of our nature. Join with the poets and artists from around the world as they share the many fruits of giving and receiving help, care and compassion on behalf of fellow humans and nonhumans alike.

funeral home
here too
she straightens his tie

~ Roberta Beary

cat’s purr…
nothing can hurt
us now

~ Adrian Bouter

How to explain it
this unexpected tenderness
for my aging body

~ Sylvia Forges-Ryan

more people in my prayers spring stars

~ Marcus Larsson

all grown up
with a four-year-old mind—
his voice on the phone
will you rock me to sleep

~ Jenny Ward Angyal

Pandemic Haiku: Living Through COVID-19 (2020)
ISBN 978-1-734125474
By Robert Epstein
Paperback; 105 pages. $10.

(Available at Amazon.)

The world has not seen anything so devastating as the novel coronavirus pandemic since the Spanish influenza of 1918, which killed millions of people. Except in the most remote parts of the globe, the daily lives of one and all have been turned upside down like never before. We are being challenged to adapt abruptly, calling upon resilience and resourcefulness as well as humor even as anxiety, if not panic, rises in the face of sickness, death and job loss. Maybe you will recognize yourself or your loved ones in these pages and appreciate the myriad ways you too are coping with so much uncertainty and disruption. We are all living through this pandemic together.

national emergency ––
she stocks up
on cookies


whatever weather
every trip to the store
Russian roulette


the same walk ––
so many passersby
say hello now


sheltering in place
not yet a vaccine
family board games


coronavirus spread ––
she recommends a birdbath
for company


everywhere at once
Buddha with the smile
of unbearable compassion


All the Way Home: Aging in Haiku (2019)
ISBN 978-1-7341254-2-9
Edited by Robert Epstein
Paperback; 343 pages. $22.

(Available at Amazon.)

From the back cover:

The Buddha taught that everything is impermanent; that is, all things arise and pass away. If this is a holy truth––beyond religious belief systems––then each of us must find a way to make peace with the fact that we age, we grow old. Trying to resist or deny the existential reality of bodily change will only lead to suffering, if not despair; we might call it a form of senior bypassing. To embrace the changes both big and small is the fine art of living fully. There is as much cause for celebration as for lament: Beyond the changes and losses, many will observe an abundance of wisdom, courage, integrity, compassion, creativity and love. Join with the poets from around the world in these pages as they grapple poignantly and movingly with the realities of aging. Whatever your age, you are likely to find yourself both inspired and uplifted, maybe even

nursing home garden
the Kansas wind tousles
his thin hair

~ Randy Brooks

these Christmas lights ––
how I wish my children
were still small

~ Lynn Edge

wheeling her chair
through leaf fall . . .
we sure knew how to dance

~ Bill Pauly

it’s happened!
we must be truly old . . .
of our neighbour shoveling
our driveway

~ Naomi Beth Wakan

Poor Robert’s Almanac: Little Observations on Life (2019)
ISBN 978-1-7341254-1-2
By Robert Epstein
Paperback; 122 pages. $13.

(Available at Amazon.)

From the back cover:

That life is not easy might be the understatement of the decade. In these troubled and tumultuous times, it indisputably helps to have a compass or some guiding principles. Gathered here are many hard-won insights and observations gleaned from a lifetime of trial-and-error, fits and starts, mistakes and pratfalls. Arranged alphabetically, the book enables the reader to contemplate a wide range of epigrammatic reflections that are geared to stimulate one’s own inner wisdom. A few examples from the text:


More than a few of my dear friends are dead authors. They have spared me unnecessary grief.


If you are unable to sleep, dream.


Negativity does not exist. There is only what is: truth,
exaggeration, and falsehood.


There is only one problem in life: the propensity to think in terms of problems.


If you remain present, time is on your side.


Uncertainty is not a curse; it’s part of the earth you are standing on. The task is to make creative use of it.


Worry is a form of magical thinking. Why not try some real

Turning the Page to Old: Haiku & Senryu (2019)
ISBN 978-1-7335979-5-1
By Robert Epstein
Paperback; 155 pages. $15

(Available at Amazon.)

From the back cover:

Aging happens; it is an inescapable part of life. The question is: What relationship does one want to have with the ways in which the body and mind change over time? There is undeniable decline, yet there can also be continued learning, enrichment, expansion. Although there is no “right way” to age, attitude does matter. As the bumper sticker suggests: “The Most Precious Things in Life aren’t Things.” On this last leg of the journey, let light-heartedness be a counterbalance to despair; discern meaning in the midst of the ever-increasing vacuousness that surrounds us.

my last will buried somewhere

the small things
toilet seat warmer

65th birthday
is it time to retire
the clocks?

don’t look back
don’t look forward
the Eternal How

guess what
ob-la-di, ob-la-da
life goes on

Nothing is Empty: A Whole Haiku World (2019)
ISBN 978-1-7325023-7-6
By Robert Epstein
Paperback; 148 pages. $15

(Available at Amazon.)

From the back cover:

We are taught from an early age to steer clear of nothing and emptiness. These nonentities are dismissed as useless or disorganizing aspects of Life. Still, might it be possible that emptiness and nothing have something to offer us? Spiritually speaking, is there anything we can learn from listening to nothing or to emptiness? After all, emptiness and nothing may be found wherever you are. Through the power of careful attention and close observation, haiku endeavors to reveal the wisdom and truth lying at the heart of what Buddhists call the Void and Taoists refer to as The Way.

the sound of a concert hall emptying
to tell the truth
how much she learned
in college
lined up
on the window sills
all their empties
Zen garden
stands out
nothing could be a revelation

(Cover art by Ron C. Moss.)

A Congregation of Cows: Moo Haiku (2019)
ISBN: 978-1-7335979-2-0
By Robert Epstein
Paperback; 118 pages. $14.

(Available at Amazon.)

From the back cover:

There they are, dotting the hillsides and plains all across the country. Other than children in the backseats of cars or vans, few notice the wide-eyed cows and calves that lumber innocently along their self-created paths behind barbed wire. The lives of cows are quiet and uneventful. Or are they? These precious bovines are not just fodder for meat or leather; they are precious beings––as are all animals, birds and fish––regarded by many Hindus in India as sacred. How can anyone even think of killing it? No cow is an it; every cow is a she. What can we learn from the gentleness of bovines in our mist? Bashō, the father of Japanese haiku, said: “Go to the pine to learn from the pine.” In the same spirit, I say: “Open your heart to the cows and deepen your capacity for kindness and ahimsa (harmlessness).”

in that other world moo means mu

sweet grass
a newborn calf
nuzzling her mother

her face, her gaze
that one could be
my mother now

freeway drive
if I could, I would join
the congregation of cows

Healing Into Haiku: On Illness and Pain (2018)
ISBN: 978-1-7325023-5-2
By Robert Epstein
Paperback; 133 pages. $15.

(Available at Amazon.)

From the back cover:

There are many people in the world who, due to genetic makeup, luck or both, have been blessed with good health for the better part of their lives. Others succumb to incapacitating illness and/or chronic pain as a result of injury or accident, exposure to environmental contaminants, or other mystifying causes. Those with chronic illness and pain encounter many challenges to living well despite their debilitating or demoralizing symptoms. If one lives long enough––either well or ill––we all experience aging: the body changes, capacities diminish or disappear all together. There are multiple losses to face. Ultimately, death takes us all. In these pages, the reader will find recounted the everyday outlines of a life lived with sporadic courage and resilience, perseverance and humor, as well as a hint of elevation thanks to the healing spirit of haiku.

grass fire
not in the hills
in my veins
daylight savings ends
whereʼs the clock
for asthma
more travel plans
I take the long route
to the mailbox
even with
a broken nose (or worse)
laughing Buddha

(Cover art by Ron Moss.)

Checkout Time is Soon (2018)
ISBN: 978-1-7325023-3-1
By Robert Epstein
Paperback; 130 pages. $15.

(Available at Amazon.)

From the Preface:

There are an infinite number of distractions in oneʼs daily life that take me out of the here-and-now. To live more fully, I need to be awake and alert. Oddly enough, death has the ability to rouse me from the trance state we live in so much of the time. Time itself is trance, but in time our days are numbered like every grain of sand, as Bob Dylan sings. To be wholly alive and awake is to move outside time. Death awareness haiku take one out of time; by its nature, the poetic perspective of haiku tilts one in the direction of the Eternal Now, and elevates things so we may apprehend a higher truth. Please join me in this most precious of places, where together we may find lasting peace, love and transcendence within the vast landscape of impermanence.

but I only need one
birthday suit

sorry. . .
just one room left
we call it the coffin

room service:
you want a cosmetician?
no, a mortician

whereʼs my key?
checkout time
is soon

Haiku Days of Remembrance: In Honor of My Father (2018)
ISBN: 978-1-7325023-0-7
By Robert Epstein
Paperback; 290 pages. $17.

(Available at Amazon.)

From the back cover:

Haiku has the power to heal great loss, because it reveals to one’s heart the midnight truth about life-and-death, which our everyday consciousness relegates to the margins.  In the poems here that honor my father’s life, the gap appearing between life and death is diminished.  My father lives on in these haiku, which were mainly (but not exclusively) written in remembrance on his death day: the second Sunday in June over the past sixteen years.  My father is your father is every father.  Walk with me in haiku remembrance of my Dad through which the unbreakable bonds of love point us all back in the direction of wholeness.
As novelist Thornton Wilder observed: “The highest tribute to the dead is not grief but gratitude.”

Dad as a boy
there’s ingenuity
in those eyes
my father
tall grass
so dry it hums
Dad’s death day
Father’s Day
birds he imitated
at the cemetery
Dad, are you back?
that red cardinal
in the branches

Free to Dance Forever: Mourning Haiku for My Mother (2018)
ISBN: 978-0-9994939-8-4
By Robert Epstein
Paperback; 204 pages. $18.

(Available at Amazon.)

From the back cover:

Illness, aging, dying and death are inescapable facts of human existence. Resisting or denying the existential reality adds a level of suffering to the pain associated with change. In grappling with my dear mother’s slow decline due to dementia and cancer, I turned to haiku as a means of apprehending the midnight truth about birth-and-death. There are no definitive answers to be found that lie outside one’s own search for insight, understanding, wisdom and liberation. This is what I offer in these pages: glimpses beyond the pain and suffering, accessible through love, which enable us to bear the unbearable. Please join with me in mourning––and celebrating––the life and death of my beloved mother. In this act of sharing and bearing the universal loss of loved ones, I pray we may all feel a little less alone, a little more uplifted.

November afternoon––
Mom tells me her brain
has floated downriver


walking cancer my mother the rain


63rd birthday––
a Japanese maple leaf
Mom’s next world greeting


waking up
in my baby picture
Mom smiling forever


They Gave Us Life (2017)
ISBN: 978-0-9980732-9-3
Edited by Robert Epstein
Paperback; 252 pages. $20.

(Available at Amazon.)

From the back cover:

There is no greater gift than the gift of life. For this, we owe our parents an eternal debt of gratitude. The collection of English language haiku and related forms in your hands is a celebration of mothers and fathers. Contributors from around the globe pay homage to their dear parents as well as stepparents, in-laws, and parent substitutes like mentors. May the poets and artists here help you to count the myriad ways in which your mother and father have nurtured, supported, and enriched your world in both big and small ways. Even if things between you and your parents have been difficult at times, the poems in these pages might prompt you to open your heart, paving the way for forgiveness or reconciliation. Itʼs never too late to take a breath, contemplate your love and appreciation, or realize––despite their human frailties––the true blessing your mother and father have been in your life.

resurrection sky
mother somewhere between
here and there

~ Roberta Beary

like my mother
and the old monk
I learn at last
to sit quietly

~ Joy McCall

ashes in the flowerbed

the last thing
he could do for me

~ Bud Cole

in the slanted stone her haiku life

~ Amy Losak

(Cover art by Ron Moss.)

Every Chicken, Cow, Fish and Frog (2016)
ISBN: 978-0-9980732-2-4
Edited by Robert Epstein and Miriam Wald
Paperback; 218 pages. $20.

(Available at Amazon.)

From the back cover:

All life is precious; thus proclaimed Albert Schweitzer, the 20th century humanitarian. Yet, humans around the globe continue to daily mistreat and murder countless numbers of animals, fish, fowl and insects with reckless abandon. This must come to an end. Collectively, the contributors in this anthology, from Croatia to Indonesia, speak out poetically and passionately on behalf of ending nonhuman suffering. Join them in bringing more compassion, kindness and appreciation to our fundamental relationship with nonhuman beings, who deserve to live free of fear, enslavement, torture, violence and slaughter. Perhaps a newfound reverence for all life will become your lasting message to the world, just as Mahatma Gandhi’s embodiment of nonviolence became his.

crimson dusk–
the cowbells tinkling along
their last journey

~ Shrikaanth Krishnamurthy

a caged chimpanzee
injected with hepatitis
signs hello

~ Allan Burns

Every Chicken, Cow, Fish, and Frog is a special compilation tribute to animals. The magical place where human and non-human animals briefly connect, and share an understanding, is here, in this powerful book.”

~ Hope Bohanec, Executive Director of Compassionate Living, Projects Manager of United Poultry Concerns, and author, The Ultimate Betrayal: Is There Happy Meat?

Every Chicken, Cow, Fish, and Frog presents us with a unique, engrossing and deeply thought-provoking anthology of poetry and haiku from a global authorship for the animal- and planet-conscious reader. The subtle power of this word art will inspire many to think with greater clarity, vision and focus about some of the greatest challenges we face today.”

~ Robert Grillo, Executive Director of Free from Harm, and author, From Farm to Fable: The Fictions of Our Animal-Consuming Culture

Robert Epstein, a licensed psychotherapist, haiku poet and anthologist, has been a vegan for ethical and spiritual reasons since 1975. He lives and works in the San Francisco Bay Area. His latest book is, Turkey Heaven: Animal Rights Haiku.

Miriam Wald, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist, is an animal rights activist who cares for rescued chickens, goats and other companion animals on her mini-sanctuary in Sonoma County, California.

Turkey Heaven: Animal Rights Haiku (2016)
ISBN 978-1535070829
By Robert Epstein
Paperback; 156 pages. $15.

(Available at Amazon.)

From the back cover:

“Growing up, I relished hamburgers, chicken, steak, fish as well as dairy, and never gave any of it a momentʼs thought. Everyone I knew were avid meat-eaters. It seemed un-American to not eat meat. Then, one day, a young woman confronted me with an obvious question, as I was stir-frying ground beef for dinner: “What are you eating tonight, cow?” I was struck as if by lightning; the question cracked my consciousness wide open. Within a monthʼs time I vowed to become vegan: I gave up meat, fish, fowl, and all animal by-products, forever. Family members poked fun at me; my beloved grandmother predicted that the meatless diet I adopted was nothing more than a fad. I have lived that so-called fad for more than 40 years. Why? Because I love animals, and take seriously Dr. Albert Schweitzerʼs clarion call to embrace a reverence for life––all life. We are all related––no exceptions––human and nonhuman alike. Will you dare to take the bold step of embodying a reverence for life in your own daily living? On your deathbed, you may breathe your last with a quiet dignity and peace for having extended love and compassion to all living beings.” This book is 137 pages of mental wheel-spinning persuasion combined with the interior and cover artwork of Ed Markowski.

stir frying tofu i stop the war on animals

where to house
50 million souls
turkey heaven

Beyond the Grave: Contemporary Afterlife Haiku (2015)
ISBN 978-006925-4767-0
Anthology, ed. Robert Epstein
Paperback; 248 pages. $20.

(Available at Amazon.)

From the back cover:

How much thought have you given to whether there is life after death? Some religions, like Christianity and Hinduism, posit the existence of heaven and reincarnation, while others are silent on the question. Those not guided by faith are inclined to relegate this haunting mystery to the outermost margins of their lives. In these pages, contributors from around the world have trained their poetic eye on this all-important quest. Relying on the power of intuition and creative imagination, the poets in this collection give us a glimpse into the great mystery of life after death. Suspend your skeptical mind and accompany the poets here on the adventure into the afterlife; you may not only be surprised, but forever changed.

fragrant wind
my mother’s voice calls
from beyond

~ Roberta Beary

a deceased friend
taps me on the shoulder –
plum blossoms falling

~ Chen-ou Liu

In this collection, poets share brilliant and moving glimpses of immortality and continuous renewal. To read these poems, therefore, is to accept death as the watermark on every one of life’s pages. It is to feel at home in the vastness of existence.

~ Sheila Bender, Author of A New Theology: Turning to Poetry in a Time of Grief, and Founder of

Epstein’s collection is a treasure pot of tiny jewels. Because haiku conveys experiences of the ineffable, it is perhaps the best vehicle for transmitting the impact of encounters with the mysteries that lie beyond the grave.

~ Julia Assante, Author of The Last Frontier: Exploring the Afterlife and Transforming Our Fear of Death

Cover art by Ron C. Moss.

Haiku Edge: New and Selected Poems (2015)
ISBN 978-0-6924-7693-2
By Robert Epstein
Paperback; 136 pages. $26.

(Available at Amazon.)

From the back cover:

Most of us are taught from an early age to look on the bright side and to maintain a “positive” attitude toward life. For those who are cheerful and upbeat by nature, this Pollyannaish perspective is easy to come by. For others, perhaps with a darker temperament, the happy-clappy approach takes strenuous effort to sustain, especially given the daily exposure to violence, crime, natural disaster and economic calamity that permeates the media today.

In this unblinking collection of haiku, Robert Epstein drops the scales from his eyes and stares straight into the dark side of life. From a certain angle, reality is harsh, tragic, cruel. . . even ruthless. The tragic side of life needs to be faced and if there is any truth to be distilled, let it be revealed through the lens of poetry–the haiku edge. The result is often poignant, sometimes light-hearted, truth about the absurd world we are thrown into and manage to survive, despite. Remember that the truth, however difficult to bear, strengthens, even ennobles, the soul. You may be surprised to find yourself leaning into life with a little more courage, even compassion.

the phantom
limb of believing
war is over

Cover art and interior art provided by Ed Markowski.

Haiku Forest Afterlife (2014)
ISBN 978-0-6922-2170-9
By Robert Epstein
Paperback; 132 pages. $13.

(Available at Amazon and the CreateSpace e-store.)

From the back cover:

Most religious traditions have some fundamental belief about what happens to us after we die. Heaven and reincarnation are just two such notions with regards to the soul that offer comfort to those who fear death or have lost a loved one. In truth, we, the living, cannot say what happens to us after we die because, by definition, we are not dead yet; what happens after death remains the great mystery. At the same time, the human imagination is capable of venturing out into uncharted territory–the landscape of posthumous consciousness. In this book, Robert Epstein explores this landscape through the poetic lens of haiku. Suspend your rational, scientific mind and join him in contemplating the afterlife where the invisible and unknowable take poetic form. If time stops, what then?


Cover art provided by Ron C. Moss (

What My Niece Said in My Head (2014)
By Robert Epstein
Chapbook; 50 pages. $9.

(Contact Christina at to purchase copies.)

This book is a collection of fifty poems (haiku & senryu) from Robert Epstein to his niece for her tenth birthday. Beyond personal value, each page contains wisdom, humor, or both in a priceless marriage of pragmatism and wonder to serve as a guide as one treads through life. It serves also as a reminder that there is no harm in the inevitable; that there is beauty to be found in all aspects of life. Practical yet delightful for readers of all ages.

(Some examples…)

my niece wants to know
if the sun loses patience
waiting to go down

in my dream
I saw the tooth-fairy
she’s toothless too!

my young niece asks
where we go when we die…
right here

I don’t mind spills
I think that’s how God
made the stars

From the inside back cover:

Nobody understands life better than little girls and boys under the age of ten. For them, the world consists of one revelation after another. After ten, we forget what we know in order to get along and to fit in. The door to mystery and wonder is sealed and papered over with one too many norms, expectations, and disappointments.

If we’re lucky, the miracle of love throws the door wide open again, if only for a fleeting moment. Don’t wait for romantic love–colored as it is by infatuation–which can be readily blown out by a single gust of wind to a flame. Preserve your wild mind that is the birthright of our human incarnation. That’s what my niece–in all her fresh enthusiasm–represents for me. She is an artist, naturalist, and magician all rolled into one, as are we all.


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