The Chief of Birds: a memoir

Michael Templeton


“Having the past shattered into a present that is meaningless, the future becomes nothing at all.”

The Chief of Birds is a memoir of addiction, incarceration, and return from the brink of destruction. Allowing quotations from Samuel Beckett, Maurice Blanchot, and others to speak where the author has been silenced, it charts the fragile re-emergence of a self that passes for recovery.


"a brave book, both in form and content."

-- Pauletta Hansel, The Urban Appalachian Community Coalition

"Imagine Rousseau's Confessions written by a monster in chains. Templeton takes us on a harrowing inner journey from the depths of extreme addiction through a strange transformation, but his is not some simple, uplifting recovery or sobriety narrative. To hell with platitudes and magical thinking. From the haunting confines of suicidal alcoholism in "The Room," through the long autopsy on his identity in "The House," Templeton's metacognitive ordeal unfolds in kinship with Samuel Beckett's bleak minimalism. His sharp, courageous pursuit for authentic identity tears the thin membranes between social institutions, language, and one's narrativized self. Like Joker in Full-Metal Jacket, the narrator, “a demon slipping and sneaking from word to word,” guards at great risk the illusive, dim light of honesty of an authenticity while navigating the iron-clad principles of AA. A courageously relentless examination of the human condition, this memoir is as much a theory of mind as a story of breaking free from the deadly grip of addiction."

-- Alex Johns, Associate Professor of English, University of North Georgia

"As a frequent “monster of the solitudes” and former 12-Step reacher, regurgitator, wrestler, repudiator and reject, I feel gratitude for Mike Templeton’s fresh approach to the “Recovery” industry gerbil wheel in his meta-memoir The Chief of Birds, a volume I find reminiscent, in ways, of Dostoevsky’s Notes from the Underground, albeit from a further evolved 21st century American erstwhile cog-in-the-machine vantage point. Higher Power pshaw. Hop off the wheel. Get out from between the teeth. Read this book. Save yourself."

-- John Burroughs, 2022-23 U.S. Beat Poet Laureate and author of The Wrest of the Worthwhile

Available to pre-order from your local book shop or online at, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon UK US CA AU DE FR ES IT NL PL SE JP

ISBN 978-1-916541-00-9

Excerpt on Minor Literature[s]