Born: Established: 13 Oct 1921 Leros Greek islands
Although Dimitris Tsaloumas was born in Greece, he was educated in the Italian language, as the Dodecanese islands belonged to Italy between 1912 and 1947. Later, he attended a school on Rhodes, where he also studied violin. By the time he left Greece in 1951, he had published two collections of poetry. One of these collections was printed with the help of English writer Lawrence Durrell who met Tsaloumas on Rhodes and, impressed with the manuscript, arranged the printing at the expense of the British Information Office where Durrell worked at the time.
Tsaloumas left Greece for political reasons, hoping to return as soon as circumstances allowed. He stayed in Australia, however, gaining a BA in English and French in 1959 from Melbourne University and working as a secondary school teacher of English and modern languages in Melbourne until his retirement in 1982. Six of his poetry volumes were published in Greece. A selection from them was published as The Observatory, which won the National Book Council Award in 1983. His work has appeared in a number of journals, including Helix, Antipodes, Chroniko, Meanjin, and Island Magazine.
In 1980 he was awarded a General Writing Grant and, in 1983, a Fellowship from the Literature Board of the Australia Council. In Tsaloumas' work Hellenic traditions are reflected in highly structured and formal poetry ranging from the elegiac to the sardonic. While regarded as the paradigmatic voice of the poet in exile, more precisely of the Greek diaspora, Tsaloumas perceives himself rather as an Australian-Greek writer. He reflects a classical poetic tradition, presenting a medley of voices, a cast of commentators on modern society. His work transcends the personal and the political and is quite distinct from accounts of migrant experiences which catalogue the minutiae of the struggle for survival.
In 2006, Tsaloumas wrote the text in Japanese haiku for the limited edition artist's book, Notes Towards a Story of Love, which comprises etchings by Michael Winters and screenprinting by Douglas Kirwan. He has travelled between Melbourne and Leros since his retirement in 1982.