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Murray Poet Brings High School Yearbook To Life in "64 Blue Letters"

Matt Markgraf, WKMS

'Have a good summer! Love ya! Stay as sweet as you are! Don't ever change!' These are some of the messages that have appeared in high school yearbooks for decades. While much has changed since 1964, much of the fundamental high school experience are more or less the same. Playwright, author, teacher, former business executive Constance Alexander joins Kate Lochte on Sounds Good to read from her book of poems 64 Blue Letters, recalling a high school yearbook in verse.

Constance Alexander (recipient of the 2014 Governor's Award in the Arts) creates a living high school yearbook in her book of poems,64 Blue Letters. While the subjects and setting are in 1964, she hopes that readers of all ages will find the work appealing and will find characters similar to themselves or to people they know.

Alexander grew up in New Jersey and moved to Murray 26 years ago. On antiquing visits to Hazel, she encountered a lot of yearbooks. She looked through them and found similarities to her years in high school - learning that there were universal things about the experience. For her poems, she drew inspiration from these yearbooks and from her own past, including a student in her school who died of leukemia. At the time, people didn't discuss diseases like that, she says, and the girl became extremely isolated. While Alexander got her drivers license and went to prom, the girl - named Marsha in the book - faded away until her death. Reflecting on this and her funeral is represented in Alexander's book.

The book has been performed in theatrical spaces in Louisville, Murray and New Jersey. On hearing her work performed, Alexander says, "I think you get that additional dimension of having somebody else interpret your words and find things in your words and images that perhaps you as the writer never recognized. And I think that's the great thing about writing in literature, that you can get something from it as a writer as part of an audience hearing it you get something else. You always learn something new when your work is performed."

Constance Alexander's website

Available on Amazon

64 Blue Letters on Amazon (your purchase through this link supports WKMS)

Matt Markgraf joined the WKMS team as a student in January 2007. He's served in a variety of roles over the years: as News Director March 2016-September 2019 and previously as the New Media & Promotions Coordinator beginning in 2011. Prior to that, he was a graduate and undergraduate assistant. He is currently the host of the international music show Imported on Sunday nights at 10 p.m.
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