Study Guide

Tell all the truth but tell it slant — Art and Culture (Poetry)

By Emily Dickinson

Art and Culture (Poetry)

Tell all the Truth but tell is slant— (1)

Poetry's all about telling the truth, especially in a not-so-direct way. We Shmoopers spend all of our time working out the "slant" parts of poetry so more readers can see its deep-down truth.

Success in Circuit lies (2)

Metaphors, similes, symbols—there are all sorts of literary devices that aid in keeping poetry's message Circuit-y. There are so many sometimes, that it takes a lot of patience and practice to keep from getting dizzy.

The Truth's superb surprise (4)

It's the superb surprise in poetry, and really all art, that makes us keep coming back to it, and what makes the artist keep making it. The "surprise" in poetry or art is the act of discovery—a sort of "ah-ha!" moment.

As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind (5–6)

Poetry helps make sense of all kinds of things in our world, including scary things. Sometimes it can be like the kind explanation Dickinson writes about in line 6.

The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind—(7–8)

It's our job at Shmoop to make sure a poem doesn't lose you. We think that's what these final lines might hint at, too. A good poem pieces out its brilliance bit by bit so the reader won't be blind to its larger message. If a reader can put the pieces together, he or she will be able to discover the poem's truth (or—let's be honest, poetry isn't always cut and dried—truths).