James Baldwin, Taking a Hard Look at History

James Baldwin, photographed in 1965, leans toward the camera, wearing a flannel shirt. i

James Baldwin, photographed in 1965. Philip Townsend/Hulton Archive/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Philip Townsend/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
James Baldwin, photographed in 1965, leans toward the camera, wearing a flannel shirt.

James Baldwin, photographed in 1965.

Philip Townsend/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

James Baldwin took a long, hard look at race and history in his major poem "Staggerlee Wonders."

Baldwin was among the many poets who visited with Henry Lyman during the nearly 20 years Lyman hosted a public radio program called Poems to a Listener on member station WFCR in Amherst, Mass.

They discussed "Staggerlee Wonders," covering Baldwin's views on race, politics and the dispossessed, in a wide-ranging conversation typical of Lyman's program.

Note: There is language in this segment — and in Baldwin's poem — that some listeners may find offensive.

A Poet's Voice Rises from the Archives

Henry Lyman

Henry Lyman interviewed dozens of poets from the mid-'70s through the '90s. Trish Crapo hide caption

itoggle caption Trish Crapo

In 1986 Henry Lyman sat down with poet Robert Francis at the poet's home in Amherst, Mass.

Poet Robert Francis i

Poet Robert Francis reads from his collection at his home in Amherst, Mass. in 1976. Frank Faulkner hide caption

itoggle caption Frank Faulkner
Poet Robert Francis

Poet Robert Francis, left, with Henry Lyman, at the poet's home in Amherst, Mass., 1976.

Frank Faulkner

From 1976 to 1994, Henry Lyman hosted a public radio program called Poems to a Listener from member station WFCR in Amherst, Mass.

Through readings and conversation, Poems to a Listener took local — and eventually, national — audiences to intimate settings where poets such as Gwendolyn Brooks, William Stafford, Seamus Heaney, Yehuda Amichai and many others reflected on their lives, work and inspiration.

In one memorable broadcast, award-winning poet Robert Francis invited listeners into his wooded, one-story home in Amherst to hear works from his Collected Poems as well as some poems that would later be published posthumously in Late Fire, Late Snow.

"Home," he said, "is this little house in which I live, and much beyond it."

Francis and many of the other poets who brought life to Poems to a Listener have since died, but their work is still with us.

In recognition of National Poetry Month, All Things Considered will feature excerpts from the program throughout April.

Join us as we delve into Henry Lyman's archives.

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