“In this beautiful, haunted book, the author’s granddaddy asks her as a child, “But what could I do?” The grown child says “He asks as if I referee.” The child that survives catastrophic family history inevitably feels that she is a referee. The combatants are gone and were, always, not only powerful but unreadable. This child’s mind, facing a harrowing present and harrowing past, turns to a paradigm that she was given in the third grade: the Egyptian Book of the Dead. The ancient paradigm gives dignity and density to the tragedy of her parents’ lives. Litany, the insistent search for truth amid bewildering fragments, is what the survivor can perform to release, if not to save, the past. This is a superb book.”

Frank Bidart, author of the upcoming Half-light: Collected Poems 1965-2017 and five previous collections, and winner of the  Bollingen Prize for American Poetry and the Wallace Stevens Award

“Yes! This is news. In depth and energy, Catherine Woodard’s poetry penetrates the whole intense story. She has achieved a dazzling work.”

Marie Ponsot, winner of the Poetry Society of America’s Frost Medal and Poetry magazine’s Ruth Lilly Prize for lifetime achievement and author of Collected Poems and six previous collections.

“Like a yearning, incantatory prayer, these extraordinary poems build to an exquisite and devastating story of loss. With a child’s precision of observation made especially poignant through her third grade reading of the Egyptian Book of the Dead, Woodard’s narrator renders a brilliant portrait of a troubled family — a poem cycle truly remarkable for its economy, surprising humor, and sharp truths.”

Kate Walbert, author of  A Short History of Women, Our Kind and other novels

“In this deeply moving, beautifully conceived book, the spellbound world of Horus and Ra intermingles with Piggly Wiggly, Moon Pies, and Mrs. Long’s third-grade class where blue crepe paper rolls down the aisle and is a river named The Nile. It is here where the imaginative narrator, whose heart is a muddle, latches on to ancient charms and prayers that she believes will fix her troubled family, will keep them — and her — safe from hurt.

These are tender, sad, strong-minded poems of the eternal human desire to breathe life into the lost, to bring them back to us in love and forgiveness, and to learn how to balance the Feather of Truth on our aching hearts.”

Emily Fragos, author of poetry collections Hostage and Little Savage and editor of six anthologies

“Catherine Woodard’s Opening the Mouth of the Dead casts a powerful spell and maps a royal road into several of poetry’s oldest themes– the persistence of sex, death, and family in our imaginations, and the need to speak from beyond the grave events of our lives. Here the heart testifies to its unadorned truths in every poem.”

John Lane, poet, author of Abandoned Quarry: New & Selected Poems and several nonfiction books including Coyote Settles the South