16 July 2015

Poetry Thursday - Tell all the truth but tell it slant by Emily Dickinson

Art by Alice Sampson (via)

Tell all the truth but tell it slant 

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 —


A recent post on Alisa Golden's blog talked about an exhibition at the NIAD Art Center in Richmond, California. The title of the exhibition, "Telling It Slant", is taken from Emily Dickinson's poem. The center has been nurturing artists with disabilities for more than thirty years, and the work shown on Alisa's blog implicitly shows what a difference this makes to the artists lives. As in the eye-opening Souzou exhibition, this "outsider art" (created without tuition and without an audience in mind) is a Truth that dazzles gradually.
So too with Emily Dickinson's work - she " experimented with expression in order to free it from conventional restraints ... The speakers in Dickinson’s poetry, like those in Brontë’s and Browning’s works, are sharp-sighted observers who see the inescapable limitations of their societies as well as their imagined and imaginable escapes. To make the abstract tangible, to define meaning without confining it, to inhabit a house that never became a prison, Dickinson created in her writing a distinctively elliptical language for expressing what was possible but not yet realized." 
The biography here tells of her interest in science, particularly botany, at school, and of the role of schooling in the development of girls in the 1840s: "The students looked to each other for their discussions, grew accustomed to thinking in terms of their identity as scholars, and faced a marked change when they left school.  ... Upon their return [from formal schooling], unmarried daughters were indeed expected to demonstrate their dutiful nature by setting aside their own interests in order to meet the needs of the home.  ...  [Emily] baked bread and tended the garden, but she would neither dust nor visit."
Fewer than a dozen of Emily Dickinson's 1,800 poems were published during her lifetime (1830-1886). A heavily edited collection of her poems was published in 1890; it wasn't until 1955 that an unaltered version became available.

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