The world lost a titan of the Black Arts Movement when the poet Amiri Baraka passed away today in Newark, New Jersey after several weeks of hospitalization. Baraka was 79 years old.
"Who has ever stopped to think of the divinity of Lamont Cranston?" –I wonder whether Baraka was the first poet to reference superheroes?
— Saladin Ahmed (@saladinahmed) January 9, 2014
The poem Ahmed was referring to, “In Memory of Radio,” comes from Baraka’s first collection of poetry, Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note, which has been reprinted below. In it, Baraka — then still known as Leroi Jones — uses The Shadow to bookend the poem:
In Memory of Radio
Who has ever stopped to think of the divinity of Lamont Cranston?
(Only jack Kerouac, that I know of: & me.
The rest of you probably had on WCBS and Kate Smith,
Or something equally unattractive.)
What can I say?
It is better to haved loved and lost
Than to put linoleum in your living rooms?
Am I a sage or something?
Mandrake’s hypnotic gesture of the week?
(Remember, I do not have the healing powers of Oral Roberts…
I cannot, like F. J. Sheen, tell you how to get saved & rich!
I cannot even order you to the gaschamber satori like Hitler or Goddy Knight)
& love is an evil word.
Turn it backwards/see, see what I mean?
An evol word. & besides
who understands it?
I certainly wouldn’t like to go out on that kind of limb.
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!
What was it he used to say (after the transformation when he was safe
& invisible & the unbelievers couldn’t throw stones?) “Heh, heh, heh.
Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows.”
O, yes he does
O, yes he does
An evil word it is,