Thursday, March 6, 2008

Kentucky Books for Patients Project Seeks Donations of Books By Kentucky Writers for Cancer Patients

Thanks for visiting the
Kentucky Books for Patients Project

In an effort to make Kentucky literature available to cancer patients, the Kentucky Books for Patients Project is asking for donations of new or gently used books by Kentucky writers or writers associated with Kentucky. With support from Spalding University's Master of Fine Arts in Writing Program, the James Graham Brown Cancer Center, and Louisville’s University Hospital, this project will establish book collections in cancer centers of hospitals and clinics throughout Kentucky. Anyone, including writers themselves, is encouraged to donate novels as well as books of poetry, short stories, and essays.

Why Kentucky-related books?

We thought it would be interesting to narrow the project to works that have some connection to Kentucky, for two reasons: it utilizes our state’s excellent arts and cultural resources, and it has the potential to offer something familiar to the patient seen in a new light. For example, it would be amazing to us if a cancer patient picked up a book of poetry by Wendell Berry, read his descriptions of the Kentucky River valley in Henry County and of the farms and mountains of Eastern Kentucky, and suddenly memories from this patient’s childhood spent in that region would rise to the surface. Sena Jeter Naslund wrote in an essay published a few years ago in a collection whose title also bears these words: "Place gives rise to spirit." We hope this project affirms her idea.

Here's how you can help

What to give: We're looking for new or gently used novels and books of poetry, short stories, and essays that are related to Kentucky in some way (i.e. writer, publisher, subject). Books will be placed permanently in outpatient and inpatient cancer facilities and will be available for patients to borrow and read. The books will not leave the facilities. If you aren't sure about how to select a book, the Kentucky Literary News is a very nice Web page with updated information about Kentucky writing. You may also consider visiting local bookshops for ideas. Links are to your right.

Where to send your donation:

< MFA Office, Spalding Univ., 851 S. Fourth Street, Louisville, KY 40203

< Quills Coffee & Books, 1220 East Kentucky Street, Louisville, KY 40204

Please keep checking in with us for updates. For more information, feel free to contact us at

Thanks for your interest, and I hope to hear from you soon,

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

A Night of Readings and Music At The Jazz Factory to Benefit the Kentucky Books for Patients Project

Thank you to everyone who attended Jazz & Spoken Word. The night was tremendously successful. We collected more than 100 books!

A special thank you to the readers:
Jane Gentry Vance (Kentucky’s Poet Laureate), Frank X Walker, Sarah Gorham, Leatha Kendrick, Kathleen Driskell, Dianne Aprile, Maureen Morehead, Frederick Smock, Mary Welp, and Lori Earnshaw. Thanks also to Aleda Shirley and Emma Aprile, who read Aleda's poems in her absence.

The Kentucky Books for Patients Project would also like to thank The Jazz Factory for a wonderful evening, and also, for five great years of music and memories. We're sad to see you go.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Healing discovery: Poetry soothes a vulnerable soul

by Bob Hill, The Courier-Journal; Louisville, KY. Saturday, March 1, 2008.

It was a cancer patient's screams, followed by the soothing music of poetry, that led Clint Morehead to his plan.

About 15 months ago, he was a third-year medical student at University Hospital when a woman with breast cancer was brought in on a stretcher, her pain medicine ineffective, her screams, her cries for help, echoing down the halls.

Morehead, 26, was asked to talk to the woman, determine what pain medicine she had been using. To his surprise she recognized him; they had spoken briefly three weeks earlier; they had talked about a remote-control morphine pump she had been using to ease her agony.

They spoke a second time -- and then Morehead had to leave her to talk to doctors.

"I felt kind of ashamed afterward for not doing anything faster," he said, "but I really didn't know what to do."

That night his mother, Maureen Morehead, a Louisville teacher and poet, invited him to join her at a reading by W. S. Merwin, a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet whose writings on the Vietnam War, mythological themes and the natural world have spanned 40 years.

"It was really comforting to listen," said Morehead. "He had a deep, soothing voice … he had a tone that's unique to poetry."

Morehead understood the power of the perfect word. He was a writer at Manual High School and at Bellarmine University. He is keeping a journal of his years in medical school that he will transform into a book of essays: "I am very interested in the interplay between spirituality and medicine."

As Merwin read his poetry, Morehead thought about the effect it had on him. He bought one of Merwin's books hoping to read it to the cancer patient. He thought about what she -- and others -- were going through. Each patient had a story to tell; an uncertain amount of time to tell it; he wanted to listen.

"You're really dealing with a patient as a patient, a soul, and that inspires me," he said.

"You're dealing with them as a complete person, a person who, having been faced with their diagnosis, is extremely vulnerable … and as they tell their story it's making them better. …"

Morehead took Merwin's book of poetry to the patient hoping to read her the funny lines; the poem about a dog. He never got the chance; her room was filled with family and friends saying their goodbyes.

But his plan grew from there -- the Kentucky Books for Patients Project. He would collect the best new or gently used books of poetry, essays, short stories and literature by the best Kentucky writers.

He picked them because they spoke to home, time and place. Writers like Harriet Arnow, Bobbie Ann Mason, Jesse Stuart, Jim Wayne Miller, Thomas Merton, James Still, Robert Penn Warren, Wendell Berry and Sena Jeter Naslund -- among so many others.

He's also collecting works of more broad-based contemporary writers such as those with Spalding University's Master of Fine Arts in Writing Program.

Morehead would distribute the books to hospitals and cancer clinics across Kentucky. Patients in early treatment could read them or, better yet, have a loved one read to them -- a more tactile, intimate experience than books on tape.

If you have Kentucky classics taking up space, please contact Morehead at Or bring them to Louisville's Jazz Factory on Thursday, March 13, where a dozen Kentucky books-for-patients authors will be reading, beginning at 7:30 p.m.

We all know people dealing with cancer. We're just not always sure how to help.