Tell all the truth but tell it slant–(1263)

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
–Emily Dickinson

When I was a student at Pfeiffer College (now University)  in the late 1960s I heard  Dr. J. Griffin Campbell read this poem aloud.  It made such an impression that almost 50 years later it came back to me as I was listening to Noel Paul Stookey’s solo music, in which I recognized a reticence to speak about God in traditional ways and a choice to “tell it slant.”

Remembering Dickinson’s poem reminded me of the choice I’d made for an undergraduate major in English rather than religion because I trusted the mystical knowledge of particular poets to teach me something of the Divine. This wasn’t a decision to ignore the Hebrew and Christian scripture but a choice to see that God shows up in so-called secular places.

Long story short, I eventually went to seminary, studied theology, and was ordained in the United Methodist Church.  After retirement from ministerial appointments and college teaching, I continue be a writer interested in the intersection of faith, justice, and the arts. I still believe that telling the truth slant has an important role in the spiritual formation of those who seek to love as God loves. That belief is expressed in my reviews for Englewood Review of Books and in a book project with singer/songwriter Noel Paul Stookey of Peter, Paul, and Mary about his solo music, faith journey, and commitment to justice.

Musings on this site, which are sporadic, are mostly  on the same topics that Noel and I write about in our book, the draft of which is now about 80% complete. Welcome to Tell It Slant!

[i] https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/56824/tell-all-the-truth-but-tell-it-slant-1263