Q

Can celebrity deaths help us deal with personal grief?

Poet Kathleen Ossip says celebrities are today's Greek gods. Their stories help us deal with life and, more surprisingly, with death.
Can stories about late celebrities, like British singer Amy Winehouse, help us work through grief in our personal lives? (Juan Medina/Reuters)

Do you feel guilty about your interest in celebrity news? Don't, says award-winning poet Kathleen Ossip

Celebrities, in all their mystery and lore, are today's Greek gods — and their stories help us deal with life and, more surprisingly, with death.

Ossip's latest book, The Do Over, traces the writer's grief at the loss of a dear loved one, but also contains elegies for cultural icons like Amy Winehouse, Steve Jobs and Donna Summer. She joins Shad to discuss the unusual blend, and how she finds meaning between the trivial and the profound.

Kathleen Ossip is not worried at all about our culture's tendency toward celebrity worship. (Kathleen Ossip)


WEB EXTRA | Read two poems by Kathleen Ossip, posted here with permission from the author, and tell us: can celebrity stories help us work through our grief?

Amy Winehouse

All song is formal, and you
Maybe felt this and decided
You'd be formal too. (The eyeliner, the beehive: formal.)

When a desire to escape becomes formal,
It's dangerous. Then escape requires
Nullity, rather than a walk in the park or a movie.
Eventually, nullity gets harder and
Harder to achieve. After surgery, I had
Opiates. I pushed the button as often as I could.
Understood by music was how I felt. An escape
So complete it became a song. After that,
Elegy's the only necessary form.

A. in September

A piece of you flew into me one day, a
Niggling hooked little finger of spirit. I was
Driving. It didn't hurt, it tickled.
Randomly, I'd been wondering how to become a baby cuddler.
Even though I didn't have a baby anymore, I could substitute.
After all, lots of hospitals must need cuddlers.

Forget it, I thought immediately. It wouldn't be the same.
Oh! It tickled when I knew it would never be the same and I
Remembered suggesting it to you once, when you were
Sad there were no more babies in your life, no
Toddlers, your grandchildren were tweens now –
Except you didn't like the idea. You wanted a connection you couldn't
Really get from a scheduled cuddle with an unrelated baby,

Only from an impossible baby of your own.
So you had limitations too. What you taught me:
Screw limitations. Love anyway, and hard.
I remembered this when it flew, the
Piece in me of you.

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