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Instructions for My Mother’s Funeral (Pitt Poetry Series)

Laura Read


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This collection is divided into three sections. The first opens with the speaker’s reflections on her childhood loss of her father and subsequent move to a new house and a new life, a life in which she is always alert to the absences and danger but also a life in which she begins to see language as a kind of salvation. This section also develops the speaker’s first knowledge of sex, primarily in the poems, “The Goose Girl” and “A Woman Was Raped Here.” The second section follows the speaker into adolescence and young adulthood, and these poems further explore the sexual violence in the world in which the speaker lives, and how this violence affects her own feelings toward sex and romantic love. In the third section, the book finds love, work, and family, and the poems in this section about motherhood echo back to the first section as the speaker’s own parenting is influenced by how difficult it is to love when you know people die.

Praise For Instructions for My Mother’s Funeral (Pitt Poetry Series)

“Instructions for My Mother’s Funeral uncovers the mysteries of girlhood in haunting tableaus and synesthesiac encounters with the past and then gradually moves us into the domestic present. The death of a father and remarriage of a mother, a complicated relationship with a brother, seen through a child’s eyes; a house stoppered like a bottle where she sits alone in the quiet aftermath. Strange in that way all art is strange, light come to light, but always a palpable darkness riding beneath; a mature lyrical voice translating memory’s turbulent, wordless world.”
—Dorianne Laux

“The poems in Laura Read’s Instructions for My Mother’s Funeral are at once dreamy, precise, innocent, and sinister. One brick at a time they build a house of lives suffused with love, blood, loss, and a magic so simple and clear we cannot resist the feeling that we and everyone we know has, in some sense, lived there. I am astonished by the book’s cohesive charm and freshness and by its deadly accuracy. Bravo! to the nth power.”
—Christopher Howell

“Laura Read’s poems are like magnifying glasses. Looking through them, we see moments both hyperreal and distorted, beautiful and awful. They offer up truth. They start fires. Her story of early grief and growing up, told through these extraordinary close-ups, is riveting and utterly original.”
—Kathleen Flenniken

“Laura Read’s plain style is anything but plain. Instructions for My Mother’s Funeral is the story of women and the story of what they leave behind—jars of mayonnaise, a memory of a trip to Coney Island, a toughness in their daughters. Her poetry is grounded without denying its citizens those spare and gorgeous vaults of the soul.”
—Connie Voisine

“These poems have intelligent humor and an energy that moves the poem without effort. She sees the world with a stable view and a happy force even when dealing with illness and death. . . . I love her writing, and make the wish that she remain as unselfconscious in the future as she is today . . . Read takes the same ath we all take and makes it feel like no one else’s. This is a tender balance, making the reader feel at home while also being led to surprise.”


“’Instructions for My Mother’s Funeral’ offers no easy-to-follow directions for dealing with the inevitable . . . But Read’s poems, with their subtle details, resonant images, and skilled storytelling, affirm for us that we do have our memories. The ones who birthed us and the ones we birth will one day die. But we all get to be part of this miraculous experience.”

—Propeller Magazine

University of Pittsburgh Press, 9780822962151, 104pp.

Publication Date: November 25, 2012

About the Author

Laura Read teaches composition, literature, and creative writing courses at Spokane Falls Community College. She has published poems in a variety of journals, most recently in Rattle, Mississippi Review, Third Wednesday, and Bellingham Review. Her chapbook, The Chewbacca on Hollywood Boulevard Reminds Me of You, was the 2010 winner of the Floating Bridge Chapbook Award.