Author Statement: Cemetery Music by Birdy Odell

For as long as I can remember, I have contemplated death. Even as a child, I tried to make sense of it and observed the feelings and rituals associated with the passing of loved ones with a kind of peculiar curiosity. My younger self developed a sense of acceptance in these observations and I found it comforting. Death seemed ‘normal’, sad but not frightening.

As I got older I began to think of funerals as an ordeal and nothing to do with the person who had died at all but simply a public display of grief. It annoyed me.

I wasn’t sad when my maternal grandmother died. She had never been afraid to die herself, so I was ok with it. At her funeral, there was a little old lady in the back row who sang every hymn in a high warbling voice that lent a much-needed sense of comic relief to the occasion. I enjoyed the contrast. Grief was a state of mind alleviated by joy.

I began writing poetry to sort through my feelings at a very early age as well. It has been my way of putting my feelings somewhere outside of my body where they could be looked at as a separate entity. And yet I have never written poetry to examine personal losses. Death is still more of a riddle to be solved than an expression of grief.

In Cemetery Music I chose to pair poems about death with lighthearted images in attempt to illustrate the contrast I have so often felt. But in looking through my work later on I realized that there was still a lingering sadness. I felt that what my work was really conveying was the poignancy of memory and the mixture of happiness and sadness that resides there.

To me, death is both a comfort and a terror and always will be.

Birdy Odell

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