Tell It Slant (Emily Dickinson)


Emily Dickinson was born in 1830 and died in 1886 at the age of 55. Though considered one of the most important of American poets, she never published a single poem in her lifetime.

Upon her death, her family discovered 40 notebooks containing over 1800 poems. Many were of metaphysical themes—she’d attended some seminary. Dickinson was known to use non-conforming dashes and slashes and other punctuation, making it hard to print her work.

I think often about the poem below, probably through some vague acquaintance with Eugene Peterson’s book of the same title.

I believe truth to be on the mind of many these days, so too must be truth-telling.

I’ve heard you can sing her poems to the Gilligan’s Island theme song, but I’ve found it doesn’t always work.


by Emily Dickenson

Tell all the truth but tell it slant —
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth’s superb surprise
As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind —

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