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Common Reading 2019: Emily Dickinson

Tell the Truth but Tell It Slant

"The Truth must dazzle gradually  

Or every man be blind "

—Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson was an American poet who lived from 1830-1886. She is known for experimenting to free her poetry from following the traditional restraints. Although she spent her life writing, fewer than a dozen poems were published during her lifetime. Her first collection of nearly 1800 poems was published four years after her death. Emily Dickinson is now considered a powerful and persistent figure in American culture.


Aiyona Adora Hayman graduated from Susquehanna University in the spring of 2019 with a double major in Creative Writing and English Literature. She was selected as a Cultural Vistas fellow in the summer of 2018 where she taught and managed a free English course at The Refugee Academy in Berlin, Germany. Aiyona is currently a finalist to be a part of the 2019 Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange for Young Professionals, where she would study and work in Germany for one year as an example of American Diplomacy within the international workplace.

Introduction by Aiyona Hayman

Discussion Questions

1. This poem is over 150 years old. How does it still relate to our world today and how does it not relate to our world today?


2. What do you get from a poem that you wouldn't get in prose?


3. What do you think Dickinson is trying to say when she says “Tell all the truth but tell it slant?”

In-Class Activities

1. Write a short poem sharing a piece of advice that you would give to your younger self or somebody in your life who is younger than you.


2. Have students discuss why this poem went first in the anthology.

Additional Resources