A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

April ‘Poetry Minutes’ series to feature poems by Carlisle County Middle School Students

For the past twelve years, WKMS-FM, the National Public Radio affiliate, has played a leading role in western Kentucky’s observance of April as National Poetry Month. This year, WKMS and Kentucky writer and independent producer Constance Alexander teamed up with sixth graders in Ms. Jessica Lanier’s classes at Carlisle County Middle School to write short poems inspired by “County Election, 1852,” a historic painting by George Caleb Bingham.

County Election, 1852

Under the title of “Poetry Minutes,” the students’ original poems about the Bingham painting will be broadcast every weekday in April on WKMS-FM, a National Public Radio affiliate.

“County Election, 1852,” on view at the Old State Capitol in Frankfort, Ky., portrays voting as a raucous occasion, quite different from today’s polling places. The setting is outside a county courthouse in Missouri, where voters assemble to take their turn. No women are present, and a few of the men are suffering from the effects of too much hard cider. A figure on the courthouse steps tosses a coin, as though the winner might as well be determined by luck, while two boys play a game of mumblety-peg with their pocket knives. A friendly dog, unperturbed by the throng, watches patiently.

Ms. Alexander conducted poetry workshops with the Carlisle County students in March. The young writers observed the details in the painting, read and discussed background to that historic election, and then chose a specific point of view for their individual poems. Of the more than sixty poems written, about thirty will be showcased as “Poetry Minutes.”

The young writers were required to follow a specific poetic structure and to adopt a point of view of one of the characters in the art work. One student, Josie Bogle, imagined an African American slave watching the proceedings and longing for his freedom. Thomas Puckett’s poem voices the complaints of a flea on the dog. In her poem, Mya Curlin asks, “Why am I mad?” She answers her own question by ranting about the fact that women were not permitted to vote.

According to Ms. Alexander, “The painting provides insight into the way elections were conducted in 1852, revealing some vast differences between voting in the past and elections today. With 2018 an important election year at local, state and national levels,” she continued, “it is timely to acknowledge the privilege and responsibility inherent in voting in a democratic society.”

For more information about Poetry Minutes 2018, contact WKMS-FM at 270-809-4359 or 800-599-4737, or station manager Chad Lampe, at clampe@murraystate.edu. The station website is wkms.org.

From Murray State University

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One Comment

  1. Anne says:

    You’re great, as always!!

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