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Number 1263

Tell all the truth, but tell it slant
Success in circuit lies

Emily Dickinson, Number 1263
When I was a copywriter, I used to think about that poem all the time.
Not lying, just circuiting, circling, wandering around the truth –
Never stating it, nor denying it.

But what does a writer – even a copywriter – owe a reader?
Poetry is built to convey multiple meanings, whereas advertising is prose and pix.
And god forbid you think about it! The goal is to subvert thought.
Go straight for the feels. People going into orgasmic ecstacy over… kids’ fruit juice. Yogurt. Cereal. Nothing dazzling gradually. Instead, cascading explosions.

Want real drama – say, cancer? Look at this mom playing with her daughter.
Whipped cream on noses. No nausea! Perfect hair! Not a word about death. Or the odds. Only the side effects, raced through in a weird voice at the end.
A strange coda of truth told too fast – on purpose – to make sense.
Big Pharma, a little kid sticking its tongue out at Nanny State.

When am I not sold? In matters of national import – health care, war, budgets – we don’t speak honestly. Or debate rationally. .
Sound bites. Message discipline. Deflection. Deniability.
Where “straight talk” isn’t an action, it’s a slogan. A boast. A weapon. And, truly, a lie.

Where there is no truth, like lightning to the children eased, every (hu)man seems blind--

As an “early bird” (March 31) challenge, write a poem based on, or responding to, various lines from Emily Dickinson.

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