In Memory of Radio

In Memory of Radio Essay Questions

  1. 1

    Examine the speaker's relationship to memory/remembering in "In Memory of Radio."

    The speaker refers to himself as "the poet," and is thankful that he is able to engage with the popular culture consumed in his past: "Saturday mornings we listened to the Red Lantern & his undersea folk / At 11, Let's Pretend / & we did / & I, the poet, still do. Thank God" (lines 19-23). The poet believes that it is important to remember the media he consumed as a child, even after childhood. The passage above can be read in two different ways: either the poet continues to listen to these shows, or he continues to pretend. Therefore, the speaker makes a connection between the process of memory and the power of the imagination. Both of these mental processes uphold and engender his status as "the poet."

  2. 2

    Is there any connection between the types of popular culture alluded in "In Memory of Radio." If so, how are they similar? If not, why not?

    All of the popular culture references in "In Memory of Radio" seem to focus on the power of the imagination and, more specifically, illusions created through language. The two superheroes that the speaker alludes to, The Shadow and Mandrake the Musician, use their magical powers to confuse or muddle the minds of their opponents. Oral Roberts and F.J. Sheen were televangelists that got rich off of promoting Christian faith to the masses. Hitler was a 20th century dictator who used his incredible oratory powers to persuade an entire nation to commit genocide. The poem, then is fascinated with the power of words to effect tangible change in people's minds.

  3. 3

    Analyze some of the formal features of "In Memory of Radio" that help to reflect its meaning.

    In this poem, Baraka uses sentence fragments and enjambment in order to emphasize the fragmented nature of memory. For example, when talking about love, the speaker uses enjambment and unconventional punctuation marks in place of common words:

    & love is an evil word.

    Turn it backwards/see what I mean?

    an evol word. & besides

    who understands it? (lines 12-6).

    Additionally, punctuation and spelling are used to emphasize the voice of the speaker. Repetition is used in the last stanza of the poem to create a musical quality and leaves the reader with an eerie feeling.