James Baldwin and Kay Boyle
Commentary by Robin Rausch
Music Specialist at The Library of Congress
James Baldwin met writer and poet Kay Boyle at the MacDowell Colony in 1960 I believe. And Baldwin was unnerved by the dark woods at the MacDowell Colony at night. And it's a common phenomenon that artists who come to the MacDowell Colony that are city dwellers don't quite know, you know, what to do with the woods and the wild animals which you're sure to come into contact with when you're there because the MacDowell Colony is on 450 acres out in rural New Hampshire. There are woods, there are animals. And Kay Boyle used to walk James Baldwin to his studio after dinner because he was afraid to walk through woods at night.
And one night after arriving in his studio she confessed to him that well, she didn't like walking through the woods at night either. So he walked her back to her studio, but he simply could not screw up the courage to go back to his studio alone. And the two of them stayed up all night talking and having a wonderful time. And he was immortalized by Kay Boyle in a poem that she later wrote called "For James Baldwin" where she remembers him.
“I knew you hot nights
When you kept stepping
The light fantastic to music only the wretched
Of the Earth could hear; blizzards
In New Hampshire when you wore
A fox skin cap, its tail red as autumn
On your shoulder.”