Tell It Slant

Tell it Slant with Creative Spirit

The Tell it Slant Award was created in 2012 by the Museum’s Board of Governors, which itself selects the awardee. The name of the award is taken from a well-known Dickinson poem: “Tell all the Truth but tell it slant — / Success in Circuit lies / Too bright for our infirm Delight / The Truth’s superb surprise.” The award honors individuals whose life work is imbued with the creative spirit of the Amherst poet.

The 2019 Tell It Slant Award Winner

Lesley Dill Tell It SlantThis year’s recipient is Lesley Dill, a prominent American artist working at the intersection of language and fine art. Dill’s work has been exhibited around the world, and her art is in collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art New York, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. Her opera based on Dickinson’s poems, Divide Light, was performed by New York’s New Camerata Opera Company in 2018. 

Lesley Dill will receive the award during the Folger Shakespeare Library’s Emily Dickinson Birthday Tribute on December 9. The annual celebration will bring together speakers, scholars, and fans of Emily Dickinson’s work to celebrate the illustrious poet and her writing. This year’s tribute will feature poet Tom Sleigh, who will read his favorite Dickinson poems and share from his own work, and Lesley Dill, who will discuss her Dickinson-inspired work. 


Past award winners:

2012: Kay Ryan

Kay Ryan, not unlike Emily Dickinson, has lived largely outside the poetry world, pursuing her writing while teaching part-time at the College of Marin, a community college in California. She published her first book of poetry Strangely Marked Metal, in 1985 at the age of forty, yet her work was little noticed until 1999. Just five years later, in 2004, She received both the coveted Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize and a Guggenheim Fellowship. Her most recent accolades include a Pulitzer prize and a “Genius” award from the MacArthur Foundation.  Kay Ryan was the Poet Laureate of the United States from 2008-2010.

2013: Richard Wilbur

A former Poet Laureate of the United States, Richard Wilbur’s first poem was published at the age of eight in John Martin’s Magazine. His first book of poems, The Beautiful Changes and Other Poems came out in 1947. Wilbur received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and the National Book Award for his 1956 collection Things of This World. Another Pulitzer was awarded in 1989 for New and Collected Poems. His other honors include the Frost Medal, two PEN translation awards, the National Medal of Arts, the National Translation Award and the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize.

2015: Ken Burns

Ken Burns formed Florentine Films shortly after earning his BA at Hampshire College in Amherst. Dissatisfied with dry, scholarly historical documentaries, Burns wanted his films to “live.” To that end, he adopted the signature technique of cutting rapidly from one still picture to another in a fluid, linear fashion, with the imagery joined by “first hand” narration gleaned from contemporary writings and recited by top stage and screen actors. From early success with Academy Award-nominated Brooklyn Bridge in 1981, to the Emmy Award-winning eleven-hour series The Civil War (1990), to his 2014 The Roosevelts: An Intimate History, Burns has produced projects on a range of American experiences and historic figures.

2018: Garrison Keillor

Garrison Keillor, best known for hosting A Prairie Home Companion on Minnesota Public Radio from 1974 through 2016, is host of the daily program The Writer’s Almanac and the author of more than a dozen books including Lake Wobegon DaysThe Book of GuysPilgrims: A Wobegon RomanceGuy Noir and the Straight Skinny, and The Keillor Reader. He has been honored with a Grammy, Awards for Cable Excellence (ACE), and George Foster Peabody awards, the National Humanities Medal, and election to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Since 2016, Mr. Keillor has also been a columnist for The Washington Post