When I talk about Truth, I’m usually thinking of deep truths. I don’t want to discount the importance of telling everyday truths, but I also think that there are bigger Truths which are sometimes best told through means not strictly ‘true’ in the everyday sense. For example, a myth might be the best way to explain a relationship, from the mundane to the spiritual: I have a not-strictly-true-in-all-the-details anecdote which I used to explain why I don’t drink alcohol, and I love the story about Merlin making friends with a wolf as a way to think about our relationship with nature, without even considering the possibility that those events ever happened as described.
Deep Truths need not be the whole truth, either. They arise from your perspective, and can sometimes be captured in a single image which leaves out much about the context. “When I was ill as a teenager, my brother came home one day and reported that on the school bus I was known to be dead, pregnant, and a lesbian.” I don’t expect it happened quite like that; my memories of the time are fuzzy anyway, but this must be built up from a series of reports over days or weeks, and my brother had probably done some of the work of turning it into a ‘good line’ before it reached me. It captures, though, something about how little my illness was understood by my peers, and how school rumour mills work.
Because of this, Deep Truths may be expressed in poetry (or other art forms, like lyrics, or stand-up comedy, or photography) – not in spite of the fact that the poet leaves out some details and adds others, or tells it from a perspective not their own, but because of it, because those slight changes are made to render the Deep Truth more visible.
Generally, I try not to tell lies. I will, however, tell stories, when I think the context makes it clear that I am doing so; and I will sing a lot of things, requiring no more truth of ‘Away In A Manger’ than of ‘Scarborough Fair’.