The rest of you probably had on WCBS and Kate Smith,
or something equally unattractive"
This quote relates to the themes of popular culture/oral tradition and individuality found in "In Memory of Radio." In this passage, Jack Kerouac and the speaker (also "the poet") enjoy a popular culture that is judged by the speaker to be better than the popular culture consumed by the masses, which includes an extremely popular singer and a regional morning news show. The speaker considers these types of media "unattractive"—they have none of the "divinity" of the media that he and Kerouac choose to consume (lines 1, 4). This passage also sets up the object of this poem; Baraka speaks to a "you" that constitutes the rest of American society. In this sense, the poet places himself as alone against the masses, stressing the theme of individuality.
"& love is an evil word.
Turn it backwards
see, see what I mean?
An evol word"
Here, Baraka adopts a lighter tone as he creates a little word-play that paradoxically describes heavy subject matter quite light-heartedly. It also brings up the motif of love that stretches through the entirety of the poem. This humorous observation—that "love" spelled backward sounds a lot like "evil"—brings a conversational tone back into the poem and augments the characterization of the speaker. Here, he sounds like a jaded but funny older person humorously reminiscing on the failure of love in his life. The motif of love is a very multifaceted one throughout "In Memory of Radio," but it is unlikely that readers will find an optimistic representation of love in this poem. It is almost like the speaker is unable to make up his mind whether love is ultimately worthwhile. It should be jarring for the reader to see love equated with evil so easily and in such a light tone. There is a morbidity stirring beneath this innocuous-looking word-play.
"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!"
This quote brings up once again the theme of individuality and helps the reader get a tighter grasp on the identity of the speaker of the poem. The speaker is part of some sort of group that used to have a weekly ritual of listening to the Red Lantern radio show. They later listened Let's Pretend together, a radio show meant to foster the imaginations of children. Though it is not made explicitly clear, it could be assumed that this group of people listening to these shows in the speaker's memory are the friends and siblings of his childhood who were consuming the same popular culture as he was through the radio. And though this collective no longer listens to these things, the speaker still listens to the sounds of his youth. Perhaps what separates the "I" and the "you" in this passage is the status of being a poet and the act of remembering past traditions. The distinction between the speaker and Baraka himself is blurred when he refers to himself as "the poet" in line 22.
This passage also speaks to the power of the imagination in the creative process: the "& we did" of line 21 suggests that the group of children both listened to the radio show and used their imagination as a result of listening to it. Though many have lost their power of imagination after childhood, the poet has not, as it is required for the creation of poetry.
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.