Casting Out by Rocco de Giacomo

My predilection for poetry is towards works that kick you in the teeth with its ability to make the ordinary amazing; to create wine out of water. 

So it pleasantly surprised me when the latest collection by Rocco de Giacomo, Casting Out, continued to tug subtly at my mind long after I first closed the slim volume.

Casting Out continued to tug subtly at my mind long after I first closed the slim volume.”

The longer I sit with the experiences he shares, a childhood shaped by parents’ devout Pentecostal teachings and depression, the universal desire to find acceptance as an adolescent but only finding it in the church, to then purposefully unmooring himself from the community to live a more secular life, the more his words quietly unsettle me (and delightfully so, as all good art should).

The 63 works detail the falling into, and out of, an uber-religious existence, as the author shares how his devotion has merely shifted to other deities: to his wife and daughters, to evidence and reason. 

Admitting that the love he has for his wife is, too, an act of devotion that is “so easy to lose myself in the world we’ve been building”. This world is fragile and vulnerable, the deep unease that a parent feels holding their inconsolable child in the middle of the night only wanting their mom. In those late hours, it’s hard to not ask bigger questions.

de Giacomo’s poems offer critique of current (2016) affairs and characters. He observes the rise in the lack of reason championed by unpredictable people waving swastikas, while ironically reflecting on the safety and comfort found in belief (“I miss Yahweh and Lucifer; they stuck to their scripts..”) The commentary on MAGA is, arguably, an obvious subject to explore, as it purports to be a champion of Christian values. Likening preachers to pro wrestlers, though, was a delightful surprise; the juxtapositions of the elaborate pageantry (and scripts) of Pat Robertson and Peter Popoff with the Ultimate Warrior and Terry Bollea (merely a “furrowed village priest” in the shadow of Hulkamania) sits with more weight in my mind. 

Yet, while it’s tempting to see the overarching theme of the work as the impact of religion on one’s life, I would argue that it’s a theme of connection where the poems harness their greatest power. Specifically, in the connections to the past that we may not readily see in the present, or even, perhaps, wish to ignore, but which will always pull at us, like “nylon fishing line”. de Giacomo chooses not to position events as a stark before and after; rather, his words are honest, reflecting continued uncertainty and a reconciliation of the things you gave up to live a secular life: from a childhood of touching television screens to connect with preachers, to now finding that “the screens that I touch deliver no such clarity”. It’s refreshing to read his honesty about how hard it can be. 

Indeed, “It’s a worrisome thing, not waiting for Armageddon.”

Rocco de Giacomo’s most recent poetry collections include Every Night of Our Lives and Brace Yourselves. His poems have appeared in literary journals and anthologies in Canada, Australia, England, Hong Kong, and the US. Rocco lives and writes in Toronto with his wife, Lisa Keophila, a fabric artist, and his daughters, Ava and Matilda. Casting Out is his fourth full-length collection.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Guernica Editions (April 1 2023)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 110 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1771837691
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1771837699

Bryn Robinson lives in Quispamsis, NB, although she still, and always will, consider herself a Saint Johner. She uses her BA in psychology and French, and her PhD in experimental psychology, from the University of New Brunswick, to help her support health research in the province. She prefers contemporary fiction, narrative non-fiction, graphic novels and poetry - and if they are humorous, all the better. When not reading, she's exploring the New Brunswick forests and seascapes, camera in hand.