The multiple-choice exam as an ad hoc poetic form attracted me even before I saw the clever and funny things John Ashbery did with it. My Freud Quiz is as much an homage to the mulitple choice form as to the bearded inventor of psychoanalysis in his little Berggasse flat in Vienna. I think I like the structure not only because of its familiarity but because of my love of alternative possibilities.
Last night I was reading the May 2012 issue of Harper's and I came across an essay entitled "Ignorance of Things Past" by editor emeritus Lewis Lapham. The essay is full of recollected pith, some of which is surprisingly bland: "a morsel of genuine history is a thing so rare as to be always valuable" (Thomas Jefferson). But it was when I reached a new graf headed "History is work in progreess" that the imp of the perverse reared its head and I created "History, a Multiple-Choice Exam," draft one, which follows:
(1) A 'work in progress" (Lewis Lapham, Harper's, May 2012)
(2) "A waste of time" (Hilda Cortez, who sat next to me in Art History 76 sophomore year)
(3) A sphinx that "to the defeated may say 'Alas!' but cannot help or pardon" (W. H. Auden, "Spain 1937")
(4) What happens when thesis meets antithesis or when Newton's second law of mechanics meets "Hegel's Vacation"
(5) The compulsion to repeat (Freud)
(6) "Now and England" (T. S. Eliot)
(7) "Long Ago and Far Away" (Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein)
(8) "Everything only connected by 'and' and 'and'' (Elizabeth Bishop)
(9) A "hail Mary" pass (Doug Flutie)
(10) Something that occurred prior to
d) the fall of the Berlin Wall
e) your birth, dear reader. Nine months prior, give or take a few days.
f) all of the above conjoined by ampersands