By Faith Evans and David Markwardt
A column published for
Association for Challenge Course Technology
- November, 2008
Poet – Emily Dickenson
This issue’s poem comes to us from one of our greatest poets, Emily Dickinson, who was born in Amherst, Massachusetts, in 1830. Throughout her life, she seldom left her house and visitors were scarce. By the 1860s, Dickinson lived in almost total physical isolation from the outside world, but actively maintained many correspondences and read widely. While Dickinson was extremely prolific as a poet and regularly enclosed poems in letters to friends, she was not publicly recognized during her lifetime. The first volume of her work was published posthumously in 1890 and the last in 1955. She died in Amherst in 1886.
“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—“
- Emily Dickinson
Ideas for how to use the poem -
Dickinson’s short poem can be read many different ways. One reading is that it is ideal for an in-depth discussion around a Truth that a group, as a whole, is avoiding. On first reading, Dickinson’s poem may appear to advocate avoiding or sidestepping The Truth. However, on 2nd reading, her message encourages us to embrace “The Truth’s superb surprise” “with explanation kind” in order to see what is true. Dickinson’s poem recognizes that often The Truth is blinding, therefore unseen and not wholly received.
Kindly experiment with such inquiries as:
- In life in general, “What “bright” Truths are difficult to see and hear, even when explained kindly?
- In our own lives, our own work and specifically in our relationships, “What “bright” Truths are difficult to see and hear, even when explained kindly.
- Are there “dazzling” Truths for us, as a group to recognize and understand and act upon kindly?
- What are we circling around that we might address gradually?
- Does Emily Dickinson’s poem have value for us, and if so, what is it?
Dickinson’s poem contains slant rhymes: “lies” and “surprise,” “slant” and “delight,” ”eased” and “gradually.” Slant rhymes are words that almost rhyme. The only true rhymes are “kind” and “blind.” No line is longer than five words and no line has more than seven syllables. Faulds has broken up the sentences into short lines to slow the poem down, which mirrors the subject matter. As you read, pause frequently. Read in a calm and quiet voice. Allow for silence. Allow the listeners to sink into the silence. Read more slowly than you may think is necessary. Pause at punctuation and line breaks. Read the poem a second or even a third time so everyone really hears it. We would suggest that you make copies of the poem for the participants so they can follow along.
Faith Evans, PlayFully, Inc and David Markwardt, Teamwork in Action Director, Santa Fe Community College
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