Dimitris Tsaloumas was born at Leros, one of the Greek Islands, on 13 October 1921. He was, however, 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. In 1951 Tsaloumas left Greece for political reasons, intending only a brief stay in Australia. Before leaving, he had published two collections of poetry, one with the assistance of English writer Lawrence Durrell whom he had met on Rhodes.
Once in Australia, Tsaloumas completed his BA in English and French at Melbourne University in 1959 and worked as a secondary school teacher of English and modern languages until his retirement in 1982. After publishing six volumes of poetry written in Greek and mainly published in Greece, a selection of his work was published in English as The Observatory, which won the National Book Council Poetry Award in 1983. His first collection of poems “conceived and written in English” was Falcon Drinking: The English Poems (1988). Since then, he has published in both English and Greek and his collections have continued to win awards and critical praise. The Barge received the 1994 Wesley Michel Wright Prize for Poetry, while The Harbour received the 2000 John Bray Award for Poetry at the South Australian Festival Awards for Literature. In 1994 Tsaloumas was the winner of the Patrick White Award, and his contribution to Australian literature has also been recognised though an Australia Council Writers’ Emeritus Award in 2002. While Tsaloumas’s poetry is formally highly structured rather than experimental, his themes range from the classical to the contemporary.
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.