A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Constance Alexander: A stint in the circus leads to a lifetime in the theater for Liz Bussey Fentress

My friend Liz gardens with gusto and doesn’t mind getting dirty as a result. She is also a beekeeper, a playwright, and a woman who knows her way around a sewing machine. She grew up in northern Wisconsin, youngest of four, in a family that values education and the environment. With scores of nieces and nephews, great and grand, she knits Fair Isle sweaters with ease. An actor and director with impressive...

Constance Alexander: Kentucky Derby evokes memories of Aunt Agnes, the odds-on favorite

Aunt Agnes was my favorite relative. She was out-spoken and creative. She lived on Rittenhouse Square, a lovely neighborhood in the City of Brotherly Love. She told stories about my mother when they were both little girls, and if Mother tried to correct her — or change the subject — Agnes just sailed on, deliberately oblivious. Aunt Agnes had a bookie. Whenever she and Uncle Pete came to...

Constance Alexander: Celebration of Kentucky writers attracts words for all seasons

A realtor, two feminists and an elected public official walk into a public meeting room… It could be the beginning of a joke, but those four — plus about 40 more random individuals — showed up last week to celebrate Kentucky Writers Day, National Poetry Month, and Shakespeare’s Birthday at the Calloway County Public Library. Dr. Bob Davies, President of Murray State University,...

Constance Alexander: Looking back on college graduation and a year of living dangerously

The first wave of the Baby Boomer generation graduated from college fifty years ago, but you can’t talk about the class of ‘68 without referring to the so-called Summer of Love, 1967. The season was not without strife. For the first time ever, American support for the war in Vietnam fell below 50 percent in opinion polls. News of riots in Atlanta, Boston, Cincinnati, Chicago, Detroit and elsewhere...

Constance Alexander: Calloway Co. Public Library to honor Kentucky writers during National Poetry Month

Ask any Kentuckian about misconceptions associated with the Bluegrass State and responses range from horrendous to hilarious: “Yes, we wear shoes,” or “No, we are not inbred,” or “Sorry, but everyone in Kentucky doesn’t get tickets to the Derby.” Most of us are content to break out the mint juleps at home and watch the race on TV. One area in which Kentucky claims an impressive and undisputed...

Constance Alexander: Christopher P. Collins – husband, father, citizen, soldier, teacher, poet, Ph.D.

His home page is a black and white shot of Arlington National Cemetery. While the sky hovers at the edge of a storm, endless rows of headstones line up with military precision beneath clusters of leave-laden trees. There is some open space in the center, perhaps awaiting the arrival of other soldiers from different wars. By contrast, the cover of Christopher P. Collins’ award-winning collection of...

Constance Alexander: Conflict and compromise come alive on Western Kentucky History Day

For the fourth year in a row, students from elementary, middle, and high schools in Western Kentucky made the past come alive on History Day. The annual event, sponsored by the Kentucky Historical Society, brought approximately seventy-five youngsters to Murray State University’s Crisp Center in Paducah last week, where they competed for opportunities to showcase their history projects at a statewide...

Constance Alexander: 29th issue of Tiger Tales continues a Murray Elementary creative tradition

Parents and grandparents started streaming into Murray Elementary School before 7:30 a.m. At about the same time, teachers were getting their classes lined up and ready to go. Everyone was headed to the same place – the gymnasium — to celebrate the 2017 edition of “Tiger Tales,” an annual publication of student prose, poetry, and art. Last year’s 4th graders, now at Murray Middle School,...

Constance Alexander: It’s time to dial down the rhetoric and find a real pension reform solution

The most important job I ever had was teaching English and Social Studies in junior high school because every single day offered a long-term opportunity to make a difference in a young person’s life. Short-term, payback was less rosy. Daily challenges included dealing with administrivia, adolescent meltdowns, and parental ennui. Critics carped about summer vacations and seasonal holidays, insisting...

Constance Alexander: Never underestimate a woman with vision, connections, and a good horse

With slightly less than 100 pages to go in my reading of “Wide Neighborhoods,” the autobiography of Mary Breckinridge, the book is a-flutter with sticky notes to mark memorable and amazing passages. Ms. Breckinridge — an old-world mix of true grit, southern charm, and keen intellect — founded Frontier Nursing Service, advancing the field of midwifery to a model of rural health care...

Constance Alexander: ADA accessibility protections threatened by United States House Resolution 620

A recent Forbes quote of the day, by designer and entrepreneur Kendra Scott, declared, “Dream big and be disruptive. If you are doing the same thing as everyone else, you’ve already failed.” Such was the impetus behind the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which became the law of the land in 1990. Before then, the civil rights of people with disabilities were routinely overlooked while the...

Constance Alexander: How do you tell the difference between the good guys and the bad guys?

In Nancy Willard’s poem, “Questions My Son Asked Me, Answers I Never Gave Him,” the first unanswerable is, “Do gorillas have birthdays?” Adults are used to responding to such complicated queries from kids. The best answers demand a leap of faith, mixing the mundane with the magical, in a show of clever deception. Why is the sky blue? Because blue is God’s favorite color. Where do babies...

Constance Alexander: Frank X Walker brings Medgar Evers back from the grave with “Unghosting”

Summer days when I was nine, between endless games of hopscotch and hide-and-seek, I tried to finish at least a book a day. My quest was to score the most points in my local library’s vacation reading club, and that summer “Little Women” slowed me down. Probably the biggest book I had ever read, it was also the first one that made me cry. In the chapter entitled, “The Valley of the Shadow”...

Constance Alexander: Murray Art Guild’s ‘Interwoven’ brings little pieces together for sense of community

Whether by chance or choice, in joy and sorrow, by accident or design, communities are made up of interconnected lives. As a reminder of that interdependence, Debi Henry Danielson, Executive Director of the Murray Art Guild (MAG), likes finding ways to invite people who do not think of themselves as artists to create individual pieces that will eventually blend into a larger design. MAG’s current...

Constance Alexander: Governor’s Award for the Arts recipients should be allowed public ceremony

In 2014, as the recipient of a Governor’s Award in the Arts for my work in the Media, I participated in a public ceremony at the Kentucky Capitol Rotunda, honoring me and eight others who were – according to the press release from July 9, 2014 – “…chosen for their significant contributions to the arts in the Commonwealth, across the country and around the globe.” The formal awards ceremony...

Constance Alexander: In both fact and fiction, emotional toll of Alzheimer’s is overwhelming

Ben has that memory thing. He forgets the name, but he knows it’s normal to be able to remember his childhood but not yesterday. Sometimes he cannot call his wife’s name or the name of the daughter who is walking beside him. Words get dammed up inside him. He knows he should not feel bad about these things, but he does. Ben is one of the main characters of “Stars Go Blue,” a novel by Laura...

Constance Alexander: Local papers, increasingly rare crucibles of truth, add value to community news

For as long as I could remember, Daddy worked for a newspaper. His first job was as a newsboy on the streets of St. John, in New Brunswick, Canada. He remembered hawking the daily headlines on busy city streets in all kinds of weather. In winter, he swore the snow was so deep, he had to leave home via an upstairs window and snowshoe downtown to get his papers. Daddy was still an adolescent when his...

Constance Alexander: Embracing poetry a good start to evaluating our values, beliefs on diversity

“Those Winter Sundays“ begins with a description of a father who gets up early, even on the day of rest. He gets dressed “in the blueblack cold,” his cracked hands aching from the weekday work he does to make a living; nevertheless, he still makes sure the house is warmed for the still-sleeping family. His child wakes to the sound of, “the cold splintering, breaking,” and half-heartedly...

Constance Alexander: When ethics go south, God’s still on his side? But public support may be wavering

When ethics go south, God’s still on his side It’s a free country. Of course it is. People can change their minds lickety-split. No harm no foul, but there are downsides. A definitive 180 turn might indicate a wavering moral compass, a lack of discernment between right and wrong, thus creating an impression of impulsiveness, indecision, or just plain arrogance. Take, for example, Jeff Hoover, the...

Constance Alexander: Carol Larson’s Tall Girl series affirms therapeutic process of creating art

Carol A. Larson defines her creative work as textile art, not quilting. Instead of using her name, she titles her website live2dye. And despite some gory and tragic details, she sees her life as a story of healing, courage and acceptance. Here’s the backstory in Carol’s own words: “When I was 17 years old and 78.5 inches long, I was surgically shortened six inches with the intention of giving...