In "In Memory of Radio," the radio acts as a symbol of cultural cohesion and tradition. Though the speaker of the poem places himself outside of the mainstream (lines 1-4), he still participated in it and listened to the radio with other people during his childhood (lines 19-22). Radio is symbolized in this poem as something that is all-pervasive and that everyone listens to collectively. By setting up the radio in this way, Baraka can use it to examine the ideas of collective consciousness in the 1950s and his own individual identity as a poet.
The motif of love pops up many times throughout "In Memory of Radio." While the speaker is processing popular culture, he is also examining love, and using very colloquial language to do so. Of love, he asks, "Who understands it?" (line 17). He uses an idiom to express his hesitancy towards love: "I certainly wouldn't want to go out on that kind of limb," (line 18). Love is significant to "In Memory of Radio" because it makes the point-of-view of the speaker more complex and offers more psychological depth as the poem goes on. However, the speaker of the poem never comes to any kind of resolution with love and instead ends the poem on a reiteration of the idea that it is an "evil word," (line 28).
In Memory of Radio Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for In Memory of Radio is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.