‘His Grief Is the Plague’ : Poetry of Loss and the Risk of Losing One’s Readers


This article discusses the book Lalomanu, a selection of poetry by Spanish-Australian writer, Jorge Salavert, written in response to the death of his daughter Clea in the tsumani that struck Samoa just after dawn on 29 September 2009. Salavert’s poetry is an attempt to come to terms with catastrophe, personal loss and grief. The poet knows that for many, a literature of grief and pain may produce not understanding or even empathy, but a turning away. In the haiku “Unmanageable” Salavert writes: “His grief is the plague. / Pain is too raw to handle. / Silence prevails.” For some readers, this literature of grief and mourning may move them only to the extent that they keep their distance; they do not respond, or do not even read, in order to avoid being affected by this very personal pain. And yet, in its expressions of grief and mourning, Salavert’s poetry also has the potential to move readers in ways that extend far beyond the personal. The majority of the collection appears in English, but a number of the poems appear in bilingual form, either Spanish and English, or Catalan and English, and this multilingual format, I will argue, is especially important in relation to the poet’s mourning. This essay's reading of Lalomanu is organised around three central concerns: literature and mourning; mourning and language; and the social engagement resulting from a literature of mourning. [Author’s abstract]

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Published 1 November 2013 in Volume 28 No. 4. Subjects: Australian poetry, Death of a loved one, Fathers & daughters, Language & identity, Migrant literature & writers, Mourning, Multilingual literature, Tidal waves.

Cite as: Jacklin, Michael. ‘‘His Grief Is the Plague’ : Poetry of Loss and the Risk of Losing One’s Readers.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 28, no. 4, 2013. https://doi.org/10.20314/als.1e818304c0.