‘Tell All the Truth but Tell it Slant'’: Poetic Truth and Indirectness

Paul Hetherington, Cassandra Atherton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In poetry, there is probably no such thing as simple or unslanted truth. This is because, as John Gibson remarks, ‘[p]oetry does not earn its claim to truth by mirroring an external world or by stating discrete, correct, “facts” about it’ (2015: 14). Yet, notwithstanding poetry’s aversion to discrete ‘facts’, poets fairly often mention truth in their work and a well-known example is Emily Dickinson’s teasing and ambiguous statement, ‘Tell all the truth but tell it slant —’ (1998: 1089). This is a good starting point for our discussion about the indirectness of poetic truth — and in the rest of her poem she has even more intriguing things to say on the subject:
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalAxon: Creative Explorations
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2020


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