A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Constance Alexander: Logan County’s South Union settlement celebrates Shaker tradition of equality

When I was growing up, “Life” was a staple in my house. Joan, my piano teacher’s daughter, worked for the weekly magazine. I glanced admiringly at her name on the masthead every week; it was an honor to know someone with such a glamorous job. Occasionally, a front cover made a memorable impression. For instance, when I was about five years old, there was one featuring Marilyn Monroe in a clingy...

Constance Alexander: Local news organizations are an important part of the fabric of our communities

When photojournalist Joshua McKerrow was asked what plans the Capital Gazette had for going forward after the slaughter of five of the Annapolis newspaper’s employees, his answer was simple: “We’ll just get back to work,” he said. “You know, July 4 is next week. We’ve got to cover the parade.” McKerrow answered without hesitation, with no thought that coverage of community news would...

Constance Alexander: A nation that went to the moon should be able to solve today’s complex problems

Families got a package deal on tonsillectomies when I was a child. At least that is how it seems to me as I reflect on my experience. I was the one with constant sore throats and upper respiratory infections. My older sister Jeanne had none of those complaints, yet we had our tonsils out at the same time. Daddy stayed home from work, and my mother made us dress in church clothes, white gloves and...

Constance Alexander: Pulitzer Prize-winning musical ‘Next to Normal’ explores bipolar disorder

Demi Lovato, Russell Brand, Carrie Fisher — even adorable girl-next-door-who-happens-to-be-host-of-ever-popular CBS Sunday Morning, Jane Pauley – admit to bouts of bipolar disorder. Others in the spotlight have gone public with their struggles, and awareness of various mental disorders are discussed more openly now than they were a few years ago. But while the glitterati appear on talk shows...

Constance Alexander: Father’s Day tribute to an unconventional dad who ruled the dawn

Daddy talked back to the radio and TV when he disagreed with political news and views. He described the U.S.A. as “the greatest country in the world,” but stubbornly retained his Canadian citizenship. Father of five children, he left the details of our academic lives up to my mother, but had a reputation for relentless cross-examination of any potential suitor of one of his four daughters. Although...

Constance Alexander: As a teenager, a springtime drive along Main Street provided a lasting memory

In the northeast where I grew up, it was springtime until prom was over and graduation loomed. The promise of summer glimmered on the landscape, just barely out of reach. By early June, the days began to stretch out like a sinuous silk road that led to somewhere better, someplace special, something more exciting than a small town where you could tell time by the train whistles and the chimes of the...

Constance Alexander: Author Rick Bragg’s new book offers intimate look into his mother’s kitchen

Anyone who thinks the Calloway County Public Library doesn’t need more space for community gatherings should have been on hand for Rick Bragg’s visit the other day. The down-home writer typically attracts so many followers, the Friends of the Library asked people to sign up in advance to make sure there were enough chairs. The 118-plus who registered sat elbow to elbow in the library meeting room,...

Constance Alexander: Royal wedding spurs memory of a childhood fascination with fairy-tale lives

When we were little, my sister Jeanne and I were fascinated by England’s Royal Family. The children’s room at our local library had a couple of tell-all tales about Queen Elizabeth from girlhood to growing up, including her marriage to dashing Prince Philipp, their children, and her coronation. We read them from cover to cover more than once, relishing every detail. According to the pictures,...

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: 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...

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,”...

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: 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: 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: 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...