Dimitris Tsaloumas

If ever a poet could be described as being ‘between the languages’ it is surely Dimitris Tsaloumas. He arrived in Australia from the Greek island of Leros at the age of thirty and, as he writes in an essay first published in Island Magazine in 1984, ‘set out to conquer the Antipodes and landed there in metaphorical semi-darkness.What little English I had managed to teach myself proved hopelessly inadequate and indeed quite troublesome, as nobody seemed to understand me, and it was a long time before I was able to produce intelligible sounds and to understand others when spoken to.’ In that essay, reprinted in Dimitris Tsaloumas, a Voluntary Exile (Helen Nickas, Owl Publishing, 1999), he describes this linguistic, cultural and poetic journey: his childhood, largely deprived of reading matter, in the Dodecanese which was then under Italian occupation; his introduction to English literature via Dickens and T. S. Eliot and the impression made on him by the great Greek poets Elytis and Seferis in the years after the Second World War; his move to Australia into ‘voluntary exile’ in 1952, after publishing two volumes of verse in Athens, and the period of about ten years when he scarcely wrote at all. Tsaloumas started to write again in 1963 and went on to win various prizes, among them one from the Australia Book Council for The Observatory, a bilingual selection of his poems with translations by Philip Grundy.

– from Helen Constantine’s introduction in MPT Series 3/4 Between the Languages