Introduction & Overview of In Memory of Radio by Amiri Baraka

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In Memory of Radio Summary & Study Guide Description

In Memory of Radio Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains For Further Study on In Memory of Radio by Amiri Baraka.

"In Memory of Radio" appears in Baraka's first collection of poetry, Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note, published in 1961. Baraka was then  known as LeRoi Jones. Although the poems in this collection express disaffection with conventional social values and mores, they do not embody the often strident political views Baraka became known for later in his career, when he embraced Black nationalism and then international Marxism. The third poem in the collection, "In Memory of Radio" comes just before a poem to his wife, "For Hettie." It is not, however, about memory or, necessarily, radio. Rather, Baraka uses these subjects to explore ideas of taste, technology, imagination, identity, and the poet's role in society. Written in free verse and employing a conversational, sometimes humorous voice, the poem uses the speaker's memory of radio shows to ostensibly evoke a sense of nostalgia and loss. In actuality, the poem comments on the very insidiousness of radio itself, and how the medium commands human attention and creates a reality separate from the one in which human beings live. The central image in the poem is a superhero from comic books and radio shows called The Shadow. Under the cloak of invisibility, The Shadow hunts down and roots out evil in the world. The words he uttered after he transformed himself from Lamont Cranston, a millionaire playboy, to The Shadow have become a part of popular culture: "Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows."

Baraka's early writing was very much influenced by Beat writers such as Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, both of whom wrote spontaneously and championed the immediacy and the authenticity of human experience. Like much of Beat literature, Baraka's poem offers a critique of mid-century American culture and society. The poem questions middle-class tastes, popular culture, and America's seeming unquestioning acceptance of technology. Like much Beat writing it is more process than product, and hence difficult to summarize or paraphrase.

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Poetry for Students
In Memory of Radio from Poetry for Students. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.