Winter 2020-21 ♦ Volume 5, Number 2
This Winter Issue of the Pearl S. Buck Literary Journal
includes 20 selections on the theme of Truth – Tell It Slant
in genres ranging from short story, memoir, poetry and flash fiction.
Following the introduction by Anne K. Kaler
is a table of contents with links to each selection.
Truth – Tell It Slant
By Anne K. Kaler, Ph.D.
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
A succinct phrase of poetry often holds more power than the longest prose piece.
Such is the case with the first line of Emily Dickinson’s poem above. The second phrase “to tell it slant” sounds as if the poet is suggesting that the writer deceive the reader/listener. However, the poet goes on to explain at length just what she meant by this seemingly immoral advice.
Look at the strength in her first line with repetition of sounds of the letter “t”. The first “t” of “tell” forces you to open your mouth enough to show your teeth with lips spread, your tongue tight against your front teeth. The change of position from the dull sound of “the” causes you to put your tongue out and then back into an arched position against your palate and up into the Truth sound. The second half of the line “but tell it slant” repeats the beat with “tell it” it and that effort produces the hissing sound “slant” followed by the broad “ant”, a sharp hard ending.
And that’s just the first line.
What is so enticing in Dickinson’s poem is her sly use of the word “slant” which is a term in poetry for a rhyme that is not a “true” rhyme. When a poet “forces” a word to fit the poem’s meter or beat but does not replicate the exact sound of the first word, that rhyme is called a “slant” rhyme. For example, a “cat-rat” end rhyme is fine but a “cat-sad” end rhyme is not a true rhyme. Notice that this poet’s other end rhymes are correct “lies-surprise” and “kind-blind.”
That’s what our Journal is all about, isn’t it? Our writers try to tell the Truth as they perceive it – as a flawed, painful, embarrassing, hopeful, hurtful, or human action. Any Truth which writers use is automatically filtered through their own experiences and thereby is changed by the author’s particular perspective or slant.
Isn’t this true of all artists? What they create comes ultimately from their personal observation of the world around them, narrowed by their “slant” or position or perspective.
This “filtering” of Truth is the strength of the artist who sees and hears and feels a somewhat different world from writers. Take musicians, for example, who seem to hear sounds and combinations of sounds which fail to attract our ears. Sometimes their music stems from the activity of work around them — sea chanties reflect the rhythmic beat sailors need to move heavy loads in rhythm. Musicians perform their art by touching on our emotions with sounds that stir memories as the physical sounds which arouse our auditory sense. Often those musical notes are based on the sounds of nature, such as songs of birds or the patterns of whale songs, the breaking of waves on an ocean beach and the crack of icicles breaking in the wind, or the crooning of a mother’s lullaby or even the beat of the human heart.
Sound and silence and the time between are the essence of music and of poetry. Dickinson’s verse is modelled on the most ancient of poetic structures – the “fourteener” which is an iambic line of fourteen sounds in a seven or eight-beat first line and a six-beat second line. Sounds difficult to understand? This “fourteener” is the basis of early songs such as “Mary had a little lamb/whose fleece was white as snow// And everywhere that Mary went/ the lamb was sure to go.”
So it is with those of us who are writers. We try our best to capture human emotions with words, many words. In doing so, we learn to be alert to non-Truth, priding ourselves on our ability to detect falsehoods and deceptions. Yet, while we might disguise our deeper, hidden Truths from our readers, our critics often pry those hidden Truths from our biographies and storylines to bring them into the bright light of Truth.
What is it about Truth that frightens us all or, more correctly, what about Truth is dangerous to us all. Take the example of the myth of Semele, the human lover of Zeus, Chief of the Gods, when she begs to see him in all his wonder. He tries to talk her out of it but she insists. When he does appear to her in his glory, she is incinerated by the strength and heat of his power.
That’s the poet’s point. Mankind cannot withstand the strength of Truth but we must learn it “gradually.” Truth’s “superb surprise” is superior to mankind’s ability to conceive of pure Truth. In the poet’s consideration, Truth is so powerful a force that it would “dazzle” us with the brilliance of its light and would leave us “blind”.
So, she suggests that writers water down the basic Truths inherent in everyone’s life by telling it “slant” or at an angle. In essence, all writers transform their own hard-earned Truths (good and bad alike) into something made of fragile words so that another human being can catch a glimpse of the brilliant strength of Truth, “or every man be blind.”
So, as you read through our Journal, remember that, while we are all considered artists/writers, we are all separate human beings with our brains stuffed with memories just waiting to burst forth into print. May our readings help us to realize the wonderful “slanted” approach each of us uses to avoid the ultimate Truth, “the whole Truth, and nothing but the Truth.”
Table of Contents – Winter 2020-21 Issue
(Click title to read selection.
Author’s biography at end of contribution)
A Poem by Paul Teese
How the outdoor world feeds the soul.
Flash Fiction by Susan E. Wagner
A mother describes the troubled life of her addict son,
and life in the aftermath of his death.
A Short Story by Robert Moulthorp
Monologue, then dialogue of a woman
telling her boyfriend their relationship is over.
A Memoir by Karen Edwards
Running on a prayer during her mother’s final days.
A Poem by David Werrett
The writer’s beliefs may seem naïve,
but he avers that they are true.
A Memoir by John A. McCabe
Memories of a bold-spirited friend,
cut down during the Vietnam War.
A Poem by Rebecca L. Manoogian
How the degrees of “slant” in the sunshine
affects mood and outlook.
A Short Story by Joel Mendez
A spy considers the many faces of truth he must show
as he starts his new career and complicated life.
This is a standalone short story based on
the author’s upcoming first novel, “The Casualties.”
A Poem by Jennifer Klepsch
A pet injury, twisted truth, and whose story to believe?
A Short Story by Anne K. Kaler
The magic that transforms two people’s troubles by exchanging them.
A Short Story by Linda C. Wisniewski
Steps that tell a “what if” scenario
of someone trying to “jump the line.”
A Memoir by Doreen Frick
Repurposing skills in life – car repairing
or turning sea glass into jewelry.
A Poem by Karen Edwards
Reasons why the author calls herself a writer.
A Memoir by Scott Ocamb
Trusting a friend’s directions leads to precisely
where this motorcyclist doesn’t want to go.
A Short Story by Bob McCrillis
A grandfather discusses the meaning of
watching waves with his granddaughter.
A Memoir by Chandra Misra
Finally realizing the dream of a career in medicine later in life.
A Memoir by Scott Ocamb
A fearless mother helps her terrified third-grader
handle the corpse of an animal in a gentle way.
Why Did You Do It?
A Memoir by David Werrett
A widower examines the connections he experiences with his late wife.
A Short Story by Kelly O’Hara
A phone call from school interrupts a writer
from her cozy routine to deal with her son’s illness.
A Poem by Susan E. Wagner
The lifegiving properties of rain affect
plants, animals and human souls.