John Brehm is the author of several books of poems, The Poetry of Impermanence, Mindfulness, and Joy and The Dharma of Poetry, Sea of Faith, Help Is On the Way, and No Day at the Beach. He is the associate editor of The Oxford Book of American Poetry and his poems have appeared in Poetry, The Southern Review, New Ohio Review, The Sun, The Gettysburg Review, Gulf Coast, The Writer’s Almanac, The Norton Introduction to Literature, Best American Poetry, and many other journals and anthologies. He lives in Portland, Oregon, and teaches for Literary Arts and Mountain Writers Series in Portland and for the Lighthouse Writers Workshop in Denver, Colorado.
Books, Courses & Podcasts
The Poetry of Impermanence, Mindfulness, and Joy
The Poetry of Impermanence, Mindfulness, and Joy received the Spirituality & Practice Book Award for 50 Best Spiritual Books in 2017 by Spirituality and Practice Website.
The poems expertly gathered here offer all that one might hope for in spiritual companionship: wisdom, compassion, peacefulness, good humor, and the ability to both absorb and express the deepest human emotions of grief and joy. The book includes a short essay on “Mindful Reading” and a meditation on sound from editor John Brehm—helping readers approach the poems from an experiential, non-analytical perspective and enter into the mindful reading of poetry as a kind of meditation.
The Poetry of Impermanence, Mindfulness, and Joy offers a wide-ranging collection of 129 ancient and modern poems unlike any other anthology on bookshelves today. It uniquely places Buddhist poets like Han Shan, Tu Fu, Saigyo, Ryokan, Basho, Issa, and others alongside modern Western poets one would not expect to find in such a collection—poets like Wallace Stevens, Robert Frost, Elizabeth Bishop, William Stafford, Denise Levertov, Jack Gilbert, Ellen Bass, Billy Collins, and more. What these poems have in common, no matter whether they are explicitly Buddhist, is that all reflect the essential truths the Buddha articulated 2,500 years ago.
The book provides an important poetic complement to the many prose books on mindfulness practice—the poems here both reflect and embody the dharma in ways that can’t be matched by other modes of writing. Its unique features include an introduction that discusses the themes of impermanence, mindfulness, and joy and explores the relationship between them. Biographical notes place the poets in historical context and offer quotes and anecdotes to help readers learn about the poets’ lives.
The Dharma of Poetry
In The Dharma of Poetry, John Brehm shows how poems can open up new ways of thinking, feeling, and being in the world. Brehm demonstrates the practice of mindfully entering a poem, with an alertness, curiosity, and open-hearted responsiveness very much like the attention we cultivate in meditation. Complete with poetry-related meditations and writing prompts, this collection of lively, elegantly written essays can be read as a standalone book or as a companion to the author’s acclaimed anthology The Poetry of Impermanence, Mindfulness, and Joy.