A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

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...

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...

Constance Alexander: Healthcare costs, lack of compassion in Washington darken last days of 2017

My first interview with Theresa was published December 21, 2000. That story recounted her history: Thirteen years after she successfully battled breast cancer, she was diagnosed with ovarian. Since her bout with breast cancer earned her the dubious distinction of having a “pre-existing condition,” she simply could not afford health insurance. Ovarian cancer demanded a grueling – and costly —...

Constance Alexander: Hygge — a warm Danish word — can be found close to home at Red Bug Yarn

That comfy, cozy feeling of being home by the fireside on a cold winter’s day — called hygge in Danish and Gemütlichkeit in German – had no direct translation to English until Red Bug Yarn & Gifts relocated to South Sixth Street in Murray. Those who venture into the quaint shop, whether they enter with a specific purchase in mind or just drop in for a casual look-see, feel the ambiance...

Constance Alexander: ‘Tis the season to celebrate simple gifts, the ones we cherish most

From the North Pole to South, coast to coast, and border to border, 2017 has had its ups and downs. Violence blazes in far reaches of the globe, and millions can be vaporized with the flick of a finger. Voices worldwide are raised in dissent and disharmony. Hardly a joyful noise, the result is cacophony. Closer to home, debates about a library addition, a payroll tax, and the state pension fiasco have...

Constance Alexander: From fit to spry in the blink of an eye — but assuring you, Paul McCartney lives

Two good habits, maybe three, are all I can boast: Wearing a seat belt, not smoking, and maintaining a regular regimen of jogging. Since these practices are part of my routine, I don’t think about them much. Up until last Friday, in fact, I considered myself reasonably fit. But now that has changed. Please let me explain. It was an annual wellness visit, and I was chatting with the health care professional...

Constance Alexander: ‘Kennedy Comes to Kentucky’ exhibit explores JFK’s visit to western part of state

The trees were almost bare and mornings had slipped into a seasonal chill, but that day was warm and sunny, a sweet burst of sweater weather in late November. At lunchtime, we walked outside, chatting with friends about the upcoming weekend, the senior play, and festivities leading up to the annual homecoming football game on Thanksgiving. When the bell rang, it was on to Mr. Abrahamson’s U.S. History...

Constance Alexander: Celebrating many happy Thanksgiving memories, past, present and future

I remember the year my sister dropped the turkey on the kitchen floor, as she was transferring it from roasting pan to platter. We invoked the 3-second rule and swore each other to secrecy, so my mother never found out. Whew! Making the gravy was always my least favorite part of the traditional meal preparation. No matter how careful you were to stir properly, lumps of flour lurked at the bottom of...

Alexander sworn in as new president of Kentucky Historical Society Governing Board

Constance Alexander, a writer and business consultant from Murray, was recently sworn in as president of the governing board of the Kentucky Historical Society (KHS). After she took the oath of office, as administered by Judge Phillip J. Shepherd, at the Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History in Frankfort, she outlined her goals for the coming year emphasizing the connections between poetry and...

Constance Alexander: ‘Music Alive’ program offers hope to Alzheimer’s patients and caregivers alike

More than 5 million Americans are currently living with Alzheimer’s, and more than 15 million are providing unpaid care for them. Total up the cost, and it is estimated that the 18.2 billion hours of unpaid care and assistance to those living with Alzheimer’s and dementia contribute a whopping $230.1 billion to the nation. If those numbers are not enough to get your attention, get a load of this: •...