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Hi everyone!  We have a guest host for tonight – Christopher Reilley.

Happy Tuesday my fellow word wrestlers, I’m your host for this evening’s festivities, Christopher Reilley, and I’m here today to overwhelm you all with choices.

When I was asked to host DVersePoets for the very first time I thought long and hard about what topic I would spin for you all, in order to provide a wealth of poetic options for your creative efforts. I had so many choices – each one better than the last – that I found myself in the middle of a paradox of choice.

“Autonomy and freedom of choice are critical to our well being, and choice is critical to freedom and autonomy. Nonetheless, though modern Americans have more choice than any group of people ever has before, and thus, presumably, more freedom and autonomy, we don’t seem to be benefiting from it psychologically”. – American psychologist Barry Schwartz

Anyone who has ever sat down to a menu from the Cheesecake Factory, with over 250 items, knows all about the paradox of choice, sometimes referred to as ‘the paralysis of analysis.’ Too many options can make it more difficult to choose instead of less. The pressure to make an immediate choice can be overpowering, and often leads to bad choices.

‘Simplify’ is always good advice, so stepping back, I started to look more closely at the topic of choice itself.

To start with, the word choice is either used as a noun to describe an option, and/or the selection of said option; or it is also used as an adjective to denote something highly sought-after, like a choice cut of beef. So you have your choice of definitions there.

Making choices, and the consequences of those choices, is a big part of game theory. Developers work hard to give your choices meaning in the game. Open a door or not, maybe it’s a maiden, maybe it’s a dragon.

Then there is Hobson’s Choice, which is an idiomatic expression for no choice at all. It is the illusion of choice. Anyone with children will recognize this parenting tactic. “Would you prefer to have your bath before dinner or afterwards?” I often told my kids that there were two options for dinner tonight – take it, or leave it.

Hobson’s Choice as a phrase appears in Thomas Ward‘s 1688 poem “England’s Reformation”, not published until after Ward’s death. Ward wrote:

Where to elect there is but one,

‘Tis Hobson’s choice—take that, or none.

There is also the social choice phenomenon, which social scientists use to predict collective choices. It’s pretty complex, but fascinating how individual choice is often quite different from collective choice.

This is best expressed, perhaps, in political choices, and the system in place to make them. The theory of Rational Choice was supposed to be the prevailing methodology to determine or predict political choices, but much has changed in America recently. Regrettably, politics is also a means by which some are limiting or removing the choices once available to us all.

There are many “executive decision-maker” products available, such as the decision wheels and the Magic 8-Ball, which randomly produce yes/no or other “decisions” for someone who cannot make up their mind or who just wants to delegate.

Choice is a favored theme among poets.

There are poems about making difficult choices:

My Treasure by Arthur Weir

The Road not Taken by Robert Frost

Keep A-Pluggin’ Away by Paul Lawrence Dunbar

Poems about making the wrong choices:

How Did You Die by Edmund Vance Cook

The Two Kinds of People by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Your Mission by Ellen H. Gates

And poems about choices and consequences:

Perseverance by Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Invictus by William Ernest Henley

Who Killed the Plan? by Amos Russel Wells

And so fellow word wrestlers, you have the choice to craft a poem in any style, form, meter, syntax, rhyme scheme, line length, or formatting – having to do with the concept of choice.

Of course, there are a wealth of choices at the bar tonight. Along with the usual favorites, we are featuring the Poet’s Punch (dark rum and ginger beer over ice topped with a splash of elderflower liqueur) The Banker’s Choice cocktail, the Regal Choice, the Ladies Choice cocktail, and even a non-alcoholic cocktail called Hobson’s Choice.

To snack on, we offer Sweet Potato Crostini with Prosciutto Honey Roasted Figs, Jalapeno Popper Cheese Balls with Bacon & Chives, Crispy Baked Salt and Pepper Chicken Wings, and Crispy Baked Zucchini Chips.

Here’s how to join in:

  • Write your poem, your choice of style, on the topic of choice and post it to your blog.
  • Click on Mr. Linky. Copy and paste the direct link to your poem and add your name.
  • Remember to check the box re: privacy policy.
  • Follow the links to other poets. Read and comment on other poems.  That’s how we get to know each other better.  
  • Link back to dVerse so others can find us too.
  • Make the choice to say hello in the comments below.

I’m looking forward to reading your choices, and how you feel about them!

About our guest host:  Christopher Reilley is the former poet laureate of Dedham, MA, author of the chapbook “Grief Tattoos” and the full length collections “Breathing for Clouds” and “One Night Stanzas.” He has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, founded the Dedham Poet Society, and sits on the board of both the Newton Writing & Publishing Center and the Worcester County Poets Association. He lives in Cherry Valley, MA with his wife and two adult kids, working on his second novel.