telling it slant: happy birthday ED!

i just wanted to point out an interesting resource to you, on the occasion of emily dickinson’s 180th birthday (dec.10th) – the emily dickinson lexicon. (

it pairs up every single word ED uses in her poetry with the matching definitions from the edition of webster’s that she was using. this is particularly interesting if you are studying ED’s poetry rather than just reading it (which btw is cool too): in some places she uses what lexicon creator cynthia l. hallen calls “webplay” – word play that draws directly from webster’s definitions. 

in addition to pairing up words and definitions (as well as word-origins), the emily dickinson lexicon also lists poems in which the word appears, – i’ve found this useful when i knew a line from a poem but could not remember the first line / the number (since most of her poems are simply numbered). 

… and if you are here because you are googling emily dickinson for homework, a term paper, or some other assignment, the emily dickinson lexicon also has a page full of ED study-related essays and a long bibliography:

of course i won’t end this post without sharing one of ED’s poems with you, – it’s part of your healthy 5-a-day which, though most people don’t know it, applies to reading as much as to fruit and veg. 

MUCH madness is divinest sense 

To a discerning eye; 

Much sense the starkest madness. 

’T is the majority 

In this, as all, prevails. 

Assent, and you are sane; 

Demur,—you ’re straightway dangerous, 

And handled with a chain.

and then there is this one, which contains what must be one of my favorite sentences in the english language – kind of like a mission statement – right as the first line: 

Tell all the Truth but tell it slant—

Success in Cirrcuit lies

Too bright for our infirm Delight

The Truth’s superb surprise

As Lightening to the Children eased

With explanation kind

The Truth must dazzle gradually

Or every man be blind—


About annette.c.boehm

words escape me.

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