Learn It

To do a close reading of a literary passage or poem means reading with care and purpose:

  • It involves rereading the text (several times) to focus on what the author says, what the author’s purpose is, what the words mean, and what the structure of the piece tells you.
  • It helps you extract meaning from difficult or complex texts.
  • You must be able to independently get beyond a surface reading or skimming of the text to fully understand it.

So let’s take a look at the Emily Dickinson poem “Tell all the truth but tell it slant” and watch a close read in progress.  We will work together to figure out what Dickinson is trying to tell the reader.

In this activity, you will read the Emily Dickinson poem "Tell all the truth but tell it slant." Read it aloud to yourself to get its feel and rhythm. You can also listen as the poem is read to you. Then watch a video that demonstrates how to do a close read of the text. Finally, you can read a full annotation of the poem after you watch the video.

This audio player plays the Emily Dickinson track.

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

This video player plays the Close Reading of a Literary Passage video.

> Text version of video

Review a full annotation of the "Tell all the truth but tell it slant" poem.