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This review is taken from PN Review 57, Volume 14 Number 1, September - October 1987.

EXILES The Observatory: Selected Poems of Dimitris Tsaloumas, translated by Philip Grundy (with facing text), (University of Queensland Press) £9.95
Ransoms to Time: Selected Poems of Andonis Decavalles, translated by Kimon Friar (Associated University Presses) £12.95

Two poets reach us simultaneously from the Greek diaspora, each having spent some thirty years in his country of adoption, writing in a 'regionally precise Greek' of the islands where their language and lives were moulded. They write as exiles from an island culture of bitter poverty illuminated by the festal music and poetry of their forefathers; a dangerous perspective, perhaps.

Dimitris Tsaloumas left Leros to settle in Melbourne in the early 1950s. His is a mature voice, at ease with a craft of considerable range; his most evident quality is a meditative fluency that allows him to turn aside to humour and invective while maintaining the essential unity of the poem. His terse language is, in Philip Grundy's invariably idiomatic translations, capable of magnificence:


 . . . and since we'll travel on together I thank God
that from my shame at all that splendour
I saved something against the meanness of these times


and this gives the tone of Tsaloumas at his best, speaking with authority, often in anger, like those poets of the Eastern bloc whose sinuous ironies we follow precariously, carried by a terrible charge of irony. I think of Vladimir Holan. But the comparison is damaging, and we cannot afford so great a faith in Tsaloumas. As often as he puzzles, he simply disappoints ('. . . Eros . . ./unrecognised in cast-off clothes/grown old'). I prefer to emphasize certain poems of undeniable ...


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