Emily Dickinson

The Truth Must Dazzle Gradually

Hand-Lettered Illustrations of Emily Dickinson’s Poetry b David Clemesha Nursery Rhymes & Fairy Tales

Tell All the Truth But Tell It Slant
by Emily Dickinson 

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 –

[Thanks Brain Pickings and Al Filreis!]

Poetry of Hope

by Emily Dickinson

Hope is the thing with feathers—
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without the words—
And never stops—at all—

And sweetest—in the Gale—is heard—
And sore must be the storm—
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm—

I've heard it in the chillest land—
And on the strangest Sea—
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb—of Me.

Excerpt from High Tide in Tucson by Barbara Kingsolver:

In my own worst seasons I've come back from the colorless world of despair by forcing myself to look hard, for a long time, at a single glorious thing: a flame of red geranium outside my bedroom window. And then another: my daughter in a yellow dress. And another: the perfect outline of a full, dark sphere behind the crescent moon. Until I learned to be in love with my life again. Like a stroke victim retraining new parts of the brain to grasp lost skills, I have taught myself joy, over and over again.

It's not such a wide gulf to cross, then, from survival to poetry. We hold fast to the old passions of endurance that buckle and creak beneath us, dovetailed, tight as a good wooden boat to carry us onward. And onward full tilt we go, pitched and wrecked and absurdly resolute, driven in spite of everything to make good on a new shore. To be hopeful, to embrace one possibility after another—that is surely the basic instinct. Baser even than hate, the thing with teeth, which can be stilled with a tone of voice or stunned by beauty. If the whole world of the living has to turn on the single point of remaining alive, that pointed endurance is the poetry of hope. The thing with feathers.

Forever is composed of Nows

EDaguerreotype of the poet Emily Dickinson, taken circa 1848.

by Emily Dickinson

Forever — is composed of Nows —
'Tis not a different time —
Except for Infiniteness —
And Latitude of Home —

From this — experienced Here —
Remove the Dates — to These —
Let Months dissolve in further Months —
And Years — exhale in Years —

Without Debate — or Pause —
Or Celebrated Days —
No different Our Years would be
From Anno Domini's —


Tip Me Over, Pour Me Out

My friend Dōshin Owen spotted this compelling piece by Lesley Dill at the Kemper Museum of Modern Art recently.

Poem Spill, 1995
paint, plaster, collage, wire and wood

Photo by Dōshin Owen

Here’s a description from Voices in My Head, a 1995 exhibit of works by Lesley Dill: “The exhibition [consisted] of large—12 feet long—hanging cloths of muslin or gauze, each silkscreened with an image of a figure or part of a figure. The surface is stained with tea, paint and varnish, and in most cases collaged with pieces of cloth, stitched with thread, or even burned. Fragments of Emily Dickinson's poems are painted directly on the figure, or are stamped on or below the images, even cut out of the cloth. The inspiration for this series are the Buddhist prayer flags that captivated Dill during her stays in India and Nepal. These flags, pieces of cloth on which prayers have been printed, are hung, sometimes in great numbers, outside of temples or in sacred places to blow in the wind. Used to convey prayers, they are imbued with a powerful sense of spirituality.”

Photo by Dōshin Owen

One need not be a Chamber — to be Haunted —
One need not be a House —
The Brain has Corridors — surpassing
Material Place —

Far safer, of a Midnight Meeting
External Ghost
Than its interior Confronting —
That Cooler Host.

Far safer, through an Abbey gallop,
The Stones a'chase —
Than Unarmed, one's a'self encounter —
In lonesome Place —

Ourself behind ourself, concealed —
Should startle most —
Assassin hid in our Apartment
Be Horror's least.

The Body — borrows a Revolver —
He bolts the Door —
O'erlooking a superior spectre —
Or More —