In Memory of Radio

In Memory of Radio Literary Elements

Speaker or Narrator, and Point of View

The speaker of this poem is deeply concerned with his own role as a storyteller and poet. Even though he believes that he doesn't have the oratory of other successful men, he still experiments with and finds meaning through language. The speaker is addressing the audience from the point-of-view of an adult who is looking back on the media consumed in his childhood: "Saturday mornings we listened to Red Lantern & his undersea folk / At 11, Let's Pretend / & we did / & I, the poet, still do. Thank God!" (lines 19-22). Though the speaker does remember experiencing culture as a part of a collective, he sets himself apart as "the poet," who has a specific role in remembering the media that has been consumed in the past.

The speaker's tone is playful and childlike. He uses a silly word trick to show audiences that "love is an evil word," (line 15). He also focuses on popular culture consumed by children, such as superheroes like The Shadow and Mandrake the Musician. The speaker's tone makes the poem feel both lighthearted and nostalgic. There is the sense that the poet is stuck in adulthood, remembering the media he used to consume in his childhood. He feels a specific responsibility to recall this media.

Form and Meter

Metaphors and Similes

Alliteration and Assonance





America in the mid-20th Century


Playful, Childlike, and Nostalgic

Protagonist and Antagonist

Major Conflict





There are many allusions in "In Memory of Radio," which are looked into more closely in the "Characters" and "Glossary" sections. Allusion in this poem can be understood as the speaker's various brief mentions of historical pop culture and literary elements.

Stanza I: The poem opens with an allusion to Lamont Cranston/The Shadow, a superhero that fights crime by clouding up other people's minds. There is also an allusion to Jack Kerouac, a Beat novelist and friend of Baraka's in the 1950s. Kate Smith in Stanza I was a popular singer of the mid-twentieth century. WCBS is an allusion to CBS New York, a TV show that has been popular since the 1930s.

Stanza III: "Mandrake" is an allusion to the superhero Mandrake the Magician, a superhero who fought crime by making hypnotic gestures and controlling men's minds. Oral Roberts was a Christian televangelist; F.J. Sheen was also a televangelist and a bishop of the Catholic church. Hitler was the leader of Nazi Germany during WWII who was responsible for the Holocaust and countless human deaths. Goody Knight was a conservative governor in California during the 1950s.

Stanza V: "The Red Lantern & his undersea folk": the Red Lantern Corps were the anti-heroes of the DC comics universe. They are driven by the power of rage; a rage that perhaps was tapping into the rage felt by minority groups throughout the 20th century. "Let's Pretend" was a radio show for children that focused on trying to foster their imaginations.

Metonymy and Synecdoche