In Memory of Radio

In Memory of Radio Study Guide

"In Memory of Radio" was published as a part of Baraka's first poetry anthology, Preface to a Twenty-Volume Suicide Note (1961) under the name LeRoi Jones. This was published before Baraka became a radical black nationalist and changed his name. Nevertheless, the poem and the anthology it is contained in are deeply saturated with questions of black existence, race struggles in America, and the popular culture of the United States. In this anthology of poetry, Baraka develops the idea that the American idiom (how we think and speak) is a more important poetic register than the flowery language of the past. His poems, therefore, are characterized by a very colloquial voice and are saturated with American idioms and cliches. Instead of focusing on the typical poetics of the western tradition, Baraka focuses on the sonics of jazz music and attempts to incorporate jazz rhythms and registers into his poetry. When Preface to a Twenty-Volume Suicide Note was published, Baraka (then called LeRoi Jones) was still deeply involved in the Greenwich Village literary scene and the influences of Black Mountain Poetics, the Beats, and The New York School Poetics can be seen in the poems of this anthology.

Preface to a Twenty-Volume Suicide Note is widely recognized as the most important work of the first stage of Baraka's career, before he went through a metamorphosis of self and became a militant black nationalist. This work was clearly highly influenced by many of his friends within the avant-garde movements in Greenwich Village and, unlike any other Baraka anthology, conforms to the aesthetic qualities and formal elements of these Greenwich movements.