Jennifer Johnson

The TV quiz show

One answer’s absolutely right,
the others completely wrong.
No qualification,
interpretation or even
recognition is needed.

TV execs don’t want
contestants who know answers.
The public finds them boring.
They want lucky guessers.
Knowledge as lottery makes drama.

The host creates suspense
by excitement-building delay
before relief comes, at last,
in the hoped-for answer
followed by an emphatic YES!

I’d like to satirize this more,
not admit I love these shows
but they remind me of school
when I could impress my peers
by getting most answers right,

making up for my failure
to laugh with them,
never enjoying their jokes,
tolerated only because
I could ‘help’ with homework.

I wonder, in quizzes, how those
who know each country’s flag
seem to have never read
The Ancient Marineror
The Road Not Taken.

Quiz shows make me sofa-safe
hopping from thought to thought,
reconnecting me to what fascinates
without the exhausting tact
that mostly seems to fail.


Jennifer Johnson was born in Sudan and has worked in Zambia. Footprints on Africa and Beyond relates her experience there. She lives in North London and works as a freelance writer.