Side Effects: A Poetry Quiz


Working on a separate sheet of paper, choose A, B or C for each answer. There are three sections with ten questions each, for a total of thirty questions. The quiz should take you about five minutes and you will receive your results immediately.


At the end, you’ll tally the number of A’s, B’s and C’s. It’s fun to complete the quiz with a partner or two and talk about how your answers relate to each other.


1. Pick whichever answer is most true for you, right now.

2. Answer using your intuition [your heart and your soul] as opposed to your intellect [your mind].

3. Do not go back and change your answers; focus on moving forward.

4. Do not worry about “getting it right”; it is a slippery slope from “getting it right” to letting your ego get in the way, and then your true self cannot say what she/he really wants to say. (Anyhow, there are no “right” answers in these poetry quizzes.)

5. Try to focus on the materiality of the words, like poets do.

6. I urge you not to be afraid to say something that is outrageous or pretentious or that you do not understand/believe or that could not possibly be true or could not possibly be proved. These poetry quizzes are not about what you think or believe; they are about making intuitive moves and letting your imagination associate, like poets do.



1. Beauty
A) is your ability to apprehend it
B) is the reason oil painting was invented
C) betrays the body and is a lie, finally

2. Hope
A) has nothing to do with the present
B) is not a method
C) goes something like this: we swore allegiance

3. Style
A) is how you respond in a crisis
B) is the locus of self-esteem
C) is hard to paint

4. Prerogative
A) is also a privilege
B) is a political responsibility
C) belongs to crowds 

5. Your reproductive capital
A) is $7,000
B) would turn out to be harder to use than it was to win
C) is based on how one person’s desire to leave attracts the other person’s desire to stay

6. The lowest common denominator
A) is you
B) is merely a result of our ignorance
C) was a strategic move

7. The real war
A) will not get into the books
B) seems to rob everything of its perspective
C) is the impossible demand that women make on men

8. The fountain of youth
A) is real good drinking water, anyhow
B) reflects what everyone knows: love corresponds to a loss
C) is a dangerous illusion 

9. The moral
A) should be implemented around the world, immediately
B) is the kind of tunnel vision you need
C) is at the mercy of the blocks of fiction it encounters as it goes along

10. The legitimate landscape
A) involves self-conscious cul-de-sacs and some singing children
B) is neither supernatural nor natural but both
C) is a site for nature’s secret liaisons, incestuous unions, and intergenerational lust



11. Your conscience
A) flashes wildly, like a fish
B) rehearses her silence on a mountain
C) is liable to come apart if you touch it

12. Saying sorry
A) involves going against your intuition
B) is one measure of intelligence
C) does not seem entirely adequate

13. I had never been so happy
A) eating ravioli in the sunshine
B) identifying a butterfly somewhere between climb and cloud
C) rearranging the world in terms of female honesty

14. I wished
A) to please others thought I knew I could not
B) for the finality of a sunset in space
C) to photosynthesize

15. I dream
A) you have made our decision
B) the world is mine for the taking
C) a herd of wild elephants matters more

16. In a fairytale
A) you ask for what you desire
B) we resume our roles as enemies
C) what I have been afraid of for so long will have finally happened

17. In truth
A) there is nothing that cannot be solved without the application of a little elbow grease and a good work ethic
B) every landscape is haunted by radioactive clouds
C) I was always wordless when it mattered

18. The Earth
A) told me in a dream she has never been afraid of anything
B) perpetuates herself through orchestrated athletic display
C) really wanted the wind to speak, which is why it happened

19. At this point
A) we will pay, but how?
B) it gets harder and harder to love because the limits of your endurance are higher
C) some people mix wine with beer

20. Ultimately
A) it is more relaxing to be true
B) the “I” is her/his own mythology
C) he never knows when it is time for sorry



21. Why do I feel
A) the need for a thought bigger than my own head
B) most passionately when naked in the wilderness
C) my life is being lived by a self I was, but who now I can not be

22. What facts
A) are essential to understanding women
B) perform the miracle of empathy
C) reduce the heroine/hero to human-size

23. Who gave you the courage
A) to spoil everything
B) to slide deadbolts into trees
C) to bump into the limits of your honesty

24. What
A) sacrifice seems necessary in the endeavor to become yourself?
B) science answers to philosophy and not to statistics
C) does the Earth’s end have to do with the “end of the world?”

25. Was death
A) an invitation to feel grief, and as a consequence, consolation
B) proof
C) a theory for the animals, an equation by which the Earth can be saved

26. Who am I if
A) I let on how much TV I actually watch
B) mermaids still swim in my dreams
C) my place in the world matters

27. Who knew
A) Bon Jovi could stir up such feminism
B) free will was inconsistent with the laws of physics
C) Scarlett O’Hara was never the heroine

28. Is it conceivable
A) we have been missing the whole point of the ocean
B) to love nature for what she really is: predatory
C) we all have the answers; It is the questions we do not know

29. Is destiny
A) the permission to make mistakes
B) a premarital investment
C) the result of a purposeless natural process that does not have you in mind

30. Why can I not believe
A) people change
B) the fact of myself
C) part of the problem was me


Count the number of A’s, B’s and C’s. 

It is important for you to feel that you control your destiny. Your challenge is to focus on what is right rather than what is wrong and to accept the happiness that can and does come from second place/second best.

Consider the aggressive fluidity of Rainer Fettings’ Reclining Nude. The body of the beloved exists as an expression of the lover’s desire and drive, creating a precarious and uncertain balance. Getting on in this life requires both self-assurance and self-regulation. Get out of your head, put your ambitions at ease, be still, and open yourself to the non-human perspectives that transcend our all-too-human aspirations. This is where the silliness, magic, and joy kick in.

You are easy-going, magnanimous, forgiving, and have the flexibility to grasp opportunities as they happen. Now is the time to look at the horizon and prepare for it.

Henri Matisse was the most unequivocally happy artist of the twentieth century avant-garde. Consider the bowl full of the fruits of life saturated in color at the emotional center of Harmony in Red. Critics have argued that Matisse creates a hunger for color rather than a surfeit of it—instead of a “pyrotechnic display of color incidents,” the painting stabilizes on “a perfect firmament of red”. You have the emotional luxury to trust in a greater purpose and are more fortunate than you realize. Now is the time for you not to accumulate but to shape; not to report but to make.

You like to gamble and take risks. You are on the right track but it is important for you to remember where you have been and to be patient—progress takes time. In fact, your next best step just might be taking naps and getting some perspective.

Consider Ben Shahn’s Liberation, which depicts the tension between inner and outer—life [the children swinging] and death [the ruined landscape]. At the core of happiness, there are irreconcilable opposites. How can you weigh their differences, and play one against the other? Satisfaction requires hard emotional work. Not intellect, not ethics. Hard emotional work. An unsplit instant. Look straight ahead, be brave, and keep asking the hard questions—of yourself and of the world.

If you have the same number of A’s, B’s and C’s, your answer to #25 will determine your overall score.

If your scores are within two (15 As and 13 Bs), you are in transition between categories and should consider where you are at on the spectrum between the two. For example, if I score 15 A’s and 13 B’s, it might be my natural inclination to accept nothing less than second best; however, I am learning to forgive myself and focus on what happens next [as opposed to how I failed]. I might thus review my answers and look for instances in which I almost answered B and then consider what kind of perspective shift might get me from A to B.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Grégoire Bouilliers’ The Mystery Guest, Donald Kuspit and Lynn Gamwells’ Health and Happiness in Contemporary Avant Garde Art, Claudia Roth Pierponts’ Passionate Minds: Women Rewriting The World, Corinne Lows’ Pricing the Biological Clock: Reproductive Capital on the US Marriage Market, Donald Kuspit and Lynn Gamwells’ Health and Happiness in 20th-Century Avant- Garde Art, and Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing and Nils Bubandts’ Art of Living on a Damaged Planet: Ghosts and Monsters of the Anthropocene were consulted in the creation of Side Effects. Quotes from these texts are not cited within the quiz because such citations inevitably introduce bias.

EMILY CARR writes murder mysteries that turn into love poems that are sometimes called (by her McSweeney’s editors, for example) divorce poems. These days, she’s Visiting Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at the New College of Florida. Her newest book, whosoever has let a minotaur enter them, or a sonnet—, is available from McSweeney’s. It inspired a beer of the same name, now available at the Ale Apothecary. Carr’s Tarot Romance, Name Your Bird Without A Gun, is forthcoming from Spork. Visit her online at http://www.ifshedrawsadoor.com/.