CT Journal: Write a process paper in which you walk your reader through your thought process as you read a poem.

Shoko W.

The Lightning is a yellow Fork
From Tables in the sky

When I read these first two lines of 'The Lightning is Yellow Fork', I pictured a stormy night and a big table amidst the rain clouds, off the edge of which a fork is slipping off and piercing the ground below. A fork is long and pointy at one end, much like lightning, so this analogy made sense. Another thing I noticed that the words 'Lightning', 'Table', and 'Fork' were capitalized. I was not sure why this was, but I thought maybe it was because these were the main words that were being used to form the analogy. I still wasn't clear on it, so I continued on to the next part, to see if I could find anything to clarify what I didn't know.

By inadvertent fingers dropt

I read this line next. At first, I was confused by it, because I didn't know what 'inadvertent' meant. Once I looked it up, I found out that it meant "unobservant" or "without thinking" and suddenly the sentence made sense to me and I could add to my mental picture. There were now distracted fingers dropping the fork from the table in the sky. But this led me to wonder who the fingers belonged to.

The awful Cutlery
Of mansions never quite disclosed
And never quite concealed

The first thing I noticed about these next three lines was the fact that another word was capitalized "Cutlery". Just like the capitalized words in the first two lines, this use of capitalization also pertained to an analogy, since it was still talking about a fork being similar to lightning. The word 'awful' was used to describe this so-called "cutlery" so I got the impression that Dickinson meant to portray lightning as harmful and scary.

The second of these three lines confused me. I thought of what I knew about the words 'mansion' and 'disclosed.' I know that mansions are large houses or estates. To disclose something means to reveal or unfold. Did this imply that the mansion belonged to the being who was doing the dropping of the fork? Does the fact that this mansion was "never quite disclosed" mean that people down on Earth didn't really know what was up there, or that they hadn't ever seen it?

Next, when I read the third line, I noted that the word 'concealed' was written. I know that to conceal means to hide, and that it is somewhat of an antonym to the word 'disclose.' I had an idea that by adding in this line, Dickinson was trying to say that although no one was ever really quite clear on this "mansion" (what it was or why it was), they still knew that it was there.

The Apparatus of the Dark
To ignorance revealed

The return of the capitalized words! The way "Apparatus of the Dark" was phrased made me initially think that what was being described was actually something called an Apparatus of the Dark. This got me confused again. I did not know what was meant by "Apparatus of the Dark," so I thought about what I knew about these words. An apparatus can be a gadget or tool -- like a fork. The word 'dark' is often used to describe something negatively. Again, I suddenly get the impression that Dickinson is trying to imply something negative, and I made a connection to when she used the word 'awful' in the beginning.

The last line had the word 'ignorance' in it, which I noticed had a connection to the word 'inadvertent'. Was it the owner of the fingers whose ignorance was being revealed? I looked at this from a different point of view. It seemed to me that although it was sort of a stretch, Dickinson was trying to say if you do something ignorantly, people will know about it and may even be hurt by it.

The last thing I noticed about this poem was that the second and fourth lines of the second stanza rhymed. ("Concealed" and "revealed".) However, I could not think of any symbolic reason that Dickinson would put this in.

After reading this poem and thinking about it a lot, what didn't make sense to me in the beginning became clearer in my mind. A question I still wasn't able to answer, though, had to do with the third line. Whose fingers were they? The poem never says. The symbolism in the lightning bolt also remains unclear to me. It has a kind of indistinct meaning in the poem that I wasn't able to reach.

Maya M.

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

After reading the poem through, and then writing/typing it out, I start exploring the poem by examining the first line more carefully. "Tell all the Truth" Emily Dickinson is commanding us ' here to tell the truth, so she is placing importance on truth. It strikes me that she writes, "all the Truth". She is placing importance on complete truth, versus half the truth, or even most of the truth. And then there is the fact that it is not truth, but Truth. I know that in some other European languages, such as German, all nouns are capitalized. In old English too, nouns were capitalized. Even throughout the 19th century, some writers in English persisted in writing with capital nouns. However looking through the poem, I see that Emily Dickinson does not capitalize all her nouns. Therefore, I infer that this capitalization of a word means something. When reading it out loud and coming across the capital truth, I feel like I need to place emphasis of it, so perhaps this is what it is supposed to do. By thinking about it in this manner, I begin to wonder whether the author is talking about truth in general, or a specific truth, i.e. the truth of life? However there is no evidence of this here, so I move on.

"But tell it slant-" Here Emily Dickinson is complicating her earlier statement. No longer are we supposed to just tell the truth, but instead, "tell it slant." What is telling it slant? It is not, omitting part of the truth, for she tells us to tell "all the Truth. " A slant is not straight, so perhaps, that while the straight truth is the plain truth, and only the truth handed over alone and distinct, the slant truth is given bit by bit along with other useless, or perhaps even false information.

"Success in Circuit lies" Here we are told where success lies. Here two questions come to mind, "Where does success lie?" and "Success of what?". Success lies in Circuit. What is a Circuit? A circuit is something that goes round. In a circuit one ends up where one started, after going around. So success lies in going around in this circular pattern. Success of what? The only thing we have heard about in this poem so far is telling the truth. Then this line may mean that successfully telling the truth, means telling it in circles. But, how does one tell the truth in circles? Could it mean that to tell the entire truth, one doesn't say it all at once but rather exposes little bits of it which circle around to end up at the complete truth, which is actually the purpose or starting place of the teller?

"Too bright for our infirm Delight" The first question that comes to mind when reading this line, is what is too bright? There is a choice of two things - success or absolute truth. If Success is what I earlier concluded: telling the complete truth, can it be too bright? It seems to me that the answer this is no, since we want to accomplish informing something of the compete truth, therefore how can we be too successful in telling the complete truth. However if I try assuming that truth is meant, the phrase begins to make more sense. If absolute truth is too bright we cannot present it all at the same time, but rather we have to present it bit by bit, which is exactly what Emily Dickinson said in line 1. Next we discover for what truth is too bright; "our infirm Delight." Our delight is things we enjoy, therefore our infirm delight, implies that the things we enjoy change. I would agree that I and most people are like this. So putting the pieces together, this phrase seems to mean that the truth is too difficult for us to grasp, we who are people whose desires change. This gives me the impression, that the truth Emily Dickinson is talking about, is something unchangeable, some greater truth, that will never change.

"The Truth's superb surprise" Here Emily Dickinson presents more information as to what the Truth is: It is something that will surprise us. Yet it is a superb surprise meaning it isn't anything bad, but rather something pleasing. Looking at the lines I have got to now, it strikes me that this poem is arranged in two line phrases. First "Tell all the Truth but tell it slant/ Success in Circuit lies", and second, "Too bright for our infirm Delight, The Truth's superb surprise." Reading the poem in this manner clears things up for me. I still see the same ideas, but they are clearer now.

"As Lightning to the children eased With explanation kind" Taking the next two lines, I see that they start with "as", meaning we are being presented with a simile. I wonder which of the earlier ideas is being compared to lightning, but since I see no direct indication, I take it to mean the entire earlier phrases. "Lighting to the children" In Hawaii, we don't have the kind of lighting drier climates experience, yet most young children are scared of lighting. Yet adults are not scared of lighting, and I think this is what Emily Dickinson means when she says "eased With explanation kind" Once one realizes what lightning is(a natural phenomena vs. the act of the gods) one stops being scared of the bright flashes. Comparing the two ideas; we must learn the truth, but not all at once in order to learn truth's superb surprise, as children must be taught about lighting, which will then calm their fears. Yet reading the poem, I see something else here. Lightning is so closely related to too bright, that I feel there must be some significance between the two; I can't quite grasp what it is, though.

"The Truth must dazzle gradually Or every man be blind -" These are the last two lines of the poem, and reading the poem, gives them a sense of being of some consequence, that they must bring around a summary of what the author is trying to say. From what I can see, they do in fact bring about a summary. "The Truth must dazzle gradually," again informs us of the slow and gradual pattern, which should tell the truth, and tells us again how marvelous this truth is. "Or every man be blind" This line seems to tell me just how strong the truth is. Given it at once we would be blinded by it. This holds in line with how Emily Dickinson has been using light throughout the poem, people can in fact be blinded by light, if they are unable to close their eyes. I am left wondering what is the Truth. It must be something that I cannot just be told; instead I will have to slowly uncover it.

The poem's sound is very even and smooth, and the syllables in the lines go 8, 6, 8, 6, 8, 6, 8, 6 The final word in line 2 rhymes with the final word in line 4 and the final word in line 6 rhymes with the final word in line 8. There is no punctuation in the poem except two dashes with is interesting. I am unable to see any significance of the placement of the dashes, only that one is at the end of the first line and the other is at the end of the last. In all I feel like I have a pretty good grasp of the poem, though I can tell there is more to it.