Every Atom | No. 63

John E. Thiel

Introduction to Every Atom by project curator Brian Clements

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Writers make choices and the poet here announces a crucial one of his. Traditional religion speaks of the beginning and the end, the supernatural events of creation and final judgment. In nearly every line of this poem Whitman declares that traditional religious talkers separate what should be joined—God and humanity, the natural and the supernatural, this world and the next.  When one refuses to speak of the beginning or the end, only an earthy grace will do, though a grace which, in all its materiality, will be no less amazing.

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John E. Thiel is Professor of Religious Studies at Fairfield University where he has taught for 42 years.  His most recent book, Icons of Hope: The “Last Things” in Catholic Imagination (University of Notre Dame Press, 2013), received the 2014 Alpha Sigma Nu Book Award in Theology.  A member of the American Theological Society, he served as President of the Catholic Theological Society of America in 2011-12.


Cover Art by Grayson Becker