Study Guide

Tell all the truth but tell it slant — Calling Card

By Emily Dickinson

Calling Card

BIG Ideas and Abstract Notions

If you're looking for a poet to chronicle the tiniest physical details of everyday life, you're in the wrong place. While some poetry delights in painting a vivid, tangible picture for its readers, Dickinson's poetry is after something else altogether. She wants to explore big ideas. Her poems are filled with the things we live with, and are essential to our very souls, but that we can't necessarily describe. We certainly can't see or touch. Some of her favorite topics are death, grief, loneliness, longing, love, hope, God, and truth.

These are things you think or feel, but could never rest your hand on. Does that mean they don't exist? Emily Dickinson certainly thinks they do, and she wrote over a thousand poems as a testament to that belief. That we still read her poems hundreds of years later is a testament that we share some of those beliefs. She gives a voice to them, however difficult they may be to wrap our heads around. Just check out "'Hope' is the thing with feathers—," or "'Faith' is fine invention" for more examples.