A Certain Slant of Light

by Dr Natalie Pang


Photo by Bruno van der Kraan on Unsplash



There’s a certain Slant of light, 

Winter afternoons – 

That oppresses, like the Heft

Of Cathedral tunes –


Heavenly Hurt, it gives us – 

We can find no scar, 

But internal difference – 

Where the meanings, are – 


~ There’s a certain Slant of light, 1861 by Emily Dickinson 


Light is often associated with truth, with hope and with seeing. In her poem, Dickinson introduced the idea that truth may be ‘slanted’ for those who cannot bear too much of it. Truth, in its raw form, brings about oppression: there are moments when realities have become too cruel. The paradox about truth is painted by the idea that the ‘slanting’ of light can provide ways of seeing that can shield one from profound despair. Yet even such visions afflict us with ‘heavenly hurt’ with ‘no scar’ – when light is used to illuminate in public art and spaces, they evoke internal conflicts. But it is through navigating these conflicts that the deepest meanings are found – they cannot be taught, they are not singular, and the answers are ambiguous. There are no words, only light that confronts as well as guides us.




NAF programme title:
Critical Conversations 3: Illluminating the Poetics of Space - Light as Meaning-Making