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Responses to American Poetry

The aim of this online space is to host the research work of university students or young scholars as this emerges from larger projects focusing on the American poetry scene. The objective of this initiative is to bring this kind of research activity to the attention of the general public in an attempt to further promote the exchange of ideas with regard to the process of reading, understanding and appreciating poetry writing.


Tatiani Rapatzikou 
(Associate Professor, School of English, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece; Advisor and initiative co-ordinator

Athanasia Sandali

Finding the Musical Self

It has been an interesting challenge for me to be part of the Walt Whitman poesis project. The opportunity to experiment with music composition, a field that I have not practiced much and I have been trying to explore on my own the last couple of years when I find some free time, is what has made this whole experience so special for me. Unfortunately, this is something I practice only when I feel inspired, and I was afraid that I might not find the melody that I was looking for due to my lack of inspiration. Nevertheless, I first read the texts "War" and "Grief" by my friend Manousos, because I thought that in this way it would be easier for me to come up with a melody. And indeed, while I was reading these two texts, certain images emerged in my mind’s eye one after the other, and just like it was a movie I tried to imagine the full composition with music in the background. 

Moreover, the melancholic feeling conveyed by these two texts was further enhanced by certain lines I came across while reading two poems by Whitman. For instance, the lines “Beat! Beat! Drums!” (15) and “Let not the child’s voice be heard, nor the mother’s entreaties” (19) in Beat! Beat! Drums! (19861) and the line “I faithfully loved you and cared for you living, I think we shall surely meet again” (18) in “Vigil Strange I Kept on the Field one Night” (1865). Due to the impact these lines had on me, I tried to keep that melancholy alive even after the end of the videos my colleagues had put together, considering that the piece that I had witten could accompany the credits of our work. More specifically, in an effort to keep that sorrowful tone alive, I included in my piece mostly minor chords played in the beginning as an integral whole and then separately one from the other. It was the rhythm of the particular Whitman lines that attracted my attention. I found their images so strong not only visually but also acoustically, even though the child’s voice mentioned in one of them is not heard; nevertheless, I could imagine its scream. 

All in all, after having tested several melodies, I believe that the one finally chosen both corresponded to the feel Whitman’s poems emanated and the ideas and work my colleagues and friends had put together with particular emphasis placed on the diction my colleague, Manousos, had decided to include in his texts, as is the case with phrases such as “Mind not the timid—mind not the weeper or prayer” and “Scarlet and blue and snowy white.” In addition, it was Athina’s and Giorgos’ readings and auditory variables that enabled my own music composition and melody selection. 

On the basis of the points already raised, I believe that the combination of all the elements - the videos, the texts, the images, the voices - have massively contributed towards transferring Whitman’s melancholic tone to the readers and viewers as well as transforming it into something innately beautiful. 


Whitman, Walt. “Beat! Beat! Drums!”. Poetry Foundation, Accessed 1 April 2022.
---. “Vigil Strange I Kept on the Field one Night.” Poetry Foundation, Accessed 1 April 2022.

Contributor Bio: Athanasia Sandali

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