Every Atom | No. 58

Naomi Shihab Nye

Introduction to Every Atom by project curator Brian Clements

every atom


I can imagine Donald Trump being jealous of Walt Whitman.


Walt Whitman was a truly expansive man. He had massive appetites, generous enthusiasms, a larger-than-life persona, a willingness to critique himself positively, and a tendency toward melodrama, but he also had a capacious attraction to humility, quietude, attention, and regular, dizzying absorption of the voices around him. This is what Donald Trump can never have, or be, as a vacuous caricature of nothingness. Can you imagine him devoting himself to listening—even for ten real minutes?


I miss Walt more than ever these days. I think of him stomping around the sidewalks and pastures and back alleys with greatest longing. Would Trump ever sit at the bedside of a wounded soldier to read him letters from his grieving mom? Are you kidding? Whitman’s style of greatness can never be matched by greedy lying powermongers.  


In our current world, I miss Whitman’s inclusion and majestic gaze—his vast embrace of the wild and glorious varieties of humankind. 

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Naomi Shihab Nye’s most recent book is Voices in the AirPoems for Listeners (Greenwillow/HarperCollins, 2018). The Tiny Journalist will be published by BOA Editions in 2019.


Cover Art by Matt Jorgenson