The power to survive & succeed: Beatriz Copello reviews ‘Hope Blossoming in Their Ink’ by Juan Garrido-Salgado

Hope Blossoming in their Ink by Juan Garrido-Salgado, Puncher and Wattman 2020

Juan Garrido-Salgado is a survivor of torture and trauma, he immigrated to Australia from Chile in 1990, a country where he was imprisoned and tortured because of his political and literary activism. He has been widely published and counts eight books of poetry to his name.

Hope Blossoming in Their Ink is divided into three sections, each section lets the reader travel to the past and the present, visiting Chile in memories and taking up the case of political issues in Australia. This passage between Australia and Chile is clearly stated in the following excerpt from the first poem in the book titled ‘Talking with Nicanor Parra in Santiago in 1981’, he says:

I was born in the Barros Lucas Hospital
I never went to the university
However, I swing between two oceans.
I translate poetry in English into Spanish,
As a creative pathway (puente)
Between two different cultures and lands.

Juan Garrido-Salgado is a political writer, politics is embedded in the pages of this fascinating book of poetry. Nevertheless, he also writes about memories embellished by time, about other writers and the everyday and mundane.

Many of the poems are narrative poems with simple lines but very evocative and poignant like the following poem titled ‘Javier Chavez’s Sunflowers’:

It was September.
After his talk in the Semaphore Workers Club
Javier planted sunflowers in Aunty Veronica’s plot.
The holes were like rivers of memory
That embrace us with earth.
Silence and distance grow there.
I looked after them
When Javier returned to Chile.

Now I am watering them with friendship.
Soon they will be sun with roots on earth
Giving memory to my eyes and heart in the afternoon.

November is the month that I will write a letter to Javier.
It will make our friendship flower more than ever.

Today, there will be ten suns in the garden
Like yellow wings playing with the breeze,
Heads of life and struggle that will not fly away
Either to the sea, or to the sky
Either to the mountain, or to the desert.

Because they were born to live in the garden of friendship
Because they were born to be a memory and light.

When terror was a dark flower in my country
When terror nested in every tree of fear in my country
Javier Chavez was one of those who always sowed
Seeds of hope and resistance in the underground
In the blood and terror of our bodies and land.
Today, there will be ten suns in the garden
Like yellow wings playing in the breeze.
We planted them together like a friendship
For those who fight for a revolution on earth.

Many of Garrido-Salgado’s poems bleed pain, the pain of those who have been tortured, abused and humiliated by an oppressive regime; but he is a survivor and as such he also demonstrates how art can heal but also bring realities to the front. Do not think for a moment that his poems are depressive, exhibitionist, or seeking commiseration. No, his poems are a reflection of a cruel reality, portraying the power of humans to survive, to succeed and enjoy life. Garrido-Salgado survived and lives, in the following poem we can see that, where the domestic, like making the bed and washing dishes is turned into poetry. This poem is titled ‘Before & After 8.30am’:

So many things to do: take a shower
Prepare yourself for the day.
Bed is a ship arriving at the port window.
I open the curtain like putting down the ship’s sails.
Wash last night’s dishes
As if talking with many friends.

I am tired.
A pen & blank paper
I draw a line.

The alarm of my mobile sounds again:
You have to pick up Gordon at the garden at 8.10am.

The reader will find a Spanish flavour in many of the poet’s work as well as Spanish words intermingled with English words, like in the following poem
‘Variations on Moments of Silence’

Entro a mi mente como un pájaro a su jaula al atardecer.
I enter my mind like a bird entering a cage at dawn.
En mi mano sostengo una taza de te de Van Gogh.
Entro a su cama como un color de la agonía en el silencio.
In my hand I hold a Van Gogh cup of tea.
I am going into his bedroom with the colour of agony’s silence.
I read a verse from Borges; darkness is a rhythm of the moon.
Dropping two blind stars into the poem. Silence is born in my dream.
I am a poet eating the silence between the walls and my open wounds.
In my prison cell 1987 silence is the only river to swing away my pain.

As a poet I absolutely identify with the following poem which expresses the angst of the blank page, well today it is the blank screen. Yes, it is painful to wait for poems that do not come to your mind as easy as one would like. I assume that this ‘inconvenience’ affects those who turn words into poems, poems which emerge from creative minds. The poet in the poem ‘End of July, 2011’, conveys that feeling very clearly with a humoristic tone:

Waiting for a poem:
It has to be a painful process.
I am here setting at my desk
Waiting for hours but nothing comes through.
I push and push like a pregnant woman.
I can see spots of blood on the page.

I ring the doctor and ask him, what can I do?
I feel like I have been waiting for nine months already,
but the poem is not born.
I can’t walk, sleep, breathe anymore.
The doctor asks: are you a poet?

I am already late for work.
I wake up, but my dream was (or is?) trapped in another body.

Some of Garrido-Salgado evocative poems manifest the duality of feelings about what has been left in the past and what is confronted in the present common to many migrants and refugees. There is also nostalgia in some of his verses, like in ‘Cultural Difference’, where he talks about drinking “mate”; obviously is not mate. “Mate” is herbal tea drank with a metal straw and is prepared in into a hard gourd, the herb is not a drug, the “mate” is passed around between friends like how in the 70s the marihuana cigarettes were passed around. ‘Mate’ is also drunk in solitude as the poet tells us:

I like drinking mate in the afternoon or at night.

However, I have to drink it
Only from memory or with my ghost friend
Around the table by the fire.

Mate, a hot drink of herbs
Prepared by boiling la tetera
The bulb crashed in a bowl.
There is great conversation with mate.

What are the effects of mate, mate?

Apart from a great time, if you drink too much
You have to spend the whole night
Trying to write new poems by the light of the angry moon.
Or praying
So that he can give you some time to sleep.

In his poems Salgado-Garrido brings a voice to the oppressed, the disenfranchised, the enslaved, the mistreated and those who suffer. He writes without sentimentality but with courage and dignity and he is not afraid to make political statements. Hope Blossoming in Their Ink makes a very interesting read.

 – Beatriz Copello


BeatrixDr Beatriz Copello, is a former member of NSW Writers Centre Management Committee, writes poetry, reviews, fiction and plays. Her poetry books include: Women Souls and Shadows, Meditations at the Edge of a Dream, Under the Gums Long Shade, and Lo Irrevocable del Halcon (In Spanish), her other books are A Call to the Star and Forbidden Steps Under the Wisteria.

Copello’s poetry has been published in literary journals such as Southerly and Australian Women’s Book Review and in many feminist publications. She has read her poetry at events organised by the Sydney Writers Festival, the NSW Writers Centre, the Multicultural Arts Alliance, Refugee Week Committee, Humboldt University (USA), Ubud (Bali) Writers Festival.

Hope Blossoming in their Ink is available from



Comments are closed.