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Dimitris Tsaloumas

The Observatory: Selected poems by Dimitris Tsaloumas, translated by Philip Grundy

October 1983, no. 55

Migrant writing in this country isn’t just burgeoning, it has begun to flourish. The writing itself and the study of it begin to look like a ‘growth industry’. What I know of it is varied both in kind and quality, but I’ve no doubt at all that the poetry of Dimitris Tsaloumas is an important achievement by any standard.

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Dimitris Tsaloumas is often thought of as a poet writing between two languages. In his English poetry, this emerges in the way that the everyday diction of Greek often functions as the learned register of English. ‘Nostalgia’, as a compound word, is a modern Western coining, but when Tsaloumas opens the volume with ‘Nostalgia: A Diptych’, he evokes the Greek components of the word, particularly nostos with its connotation of Homeric return.

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Generally, Dimitris Tsaloumas’s publications in Australia have been discussed in terms of translation, translation from Greek into English which made most reviewers long for an understanding of the original. Tsaloumas’s ‘otherness’, the difference in his poetry, has been connected with, on the one level, its bilingual presentation, its obvious physical difference. This difference is obvious again in this latest publication, the Queensland University Press’s anthology of Contemporary Australian Poetry. On first glance it too tells you that it is different; it has an excess, the Greek, for the Australian reader – not however, for the Greek. Ironically, for her this functions the other way around; the English is excess, it is strange marks on a page. Published in Greece by Nea Poreia Press in 1985, its aim was, in the words of its compiler, ‘to give some idea of the variety and wealth of the poetic production of this distant but very young and vigorous world of the antipodes’. The means through which it achieves this end are the familiar ones of translation.

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