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Sempre Avanti
Canada 150


      Un Momento with Rocco de Giacomo

      Sep. 9, 2016

      Rocco de GiacomoRocco de Giacomo is arguably one of the most widely published poets in Toronto. He has had work published in some of the top literary journals in Canada as well as abroad. His poetry often strikes the balance between poetic intensity, profound philosophy and light-hearted humour. He has published several chapbooks. His first wonderful collection of full-length poetry, Ten Thousand Miles, was longlisted for the ReLit Poetry Award and won him a place a the Poetry NOW’s 3rd Annual Battle of the Bards. His new collection, Every Night of Our Lives, is an exciting look at the world around us and at the inner workings of being a 21st Century father, husband and man.

      De Giacomo will be launching Every Night of Our Lives on September 11 at 3:30PM at Supermarket Restaurant and Bar in Toronto, as part of Guernica Editions’ September book launch series.

      Where did the inspiration for your new book come from?

      The initial inspiration came after reading Counting Sheep by Paul Martin (not our former Prime Minister). It’s a book which explores the science of sleep and dreams and also a bit of the history on interesting people who were fascinated by both. In the book, one such fellow kept a detailed dream journal as he explored how waking life influenced his dreams and vice-versa. This inspired me to do the same, and so, every morning for three years, I recorded my dreams from the night before. Interestingly, the more I thought about my dreams, the more vivid they became over time. Eventually, I tried composing free-verse poems about them. However, in free-verse, they were underwhelming, pretty much substandard surrealism. So, I decided to use traditional forms of poetry, such as haikus, sestinas and pontoons to capture the “essence” of the dreams within the parametres set by the forms.

      Your new book has been described as creating an “odyssey of the mundane.” What does that mean?

      While half of the poems in my collection are in traditional forms and set in the dream world, the other half are free-verse and set in the world of family and parenting, which on the surface is, well, pretty mundane. However, all parents have experienced moments that are far from commonplace. Writer Kurt Vonnegut complained, most “great” literature ignores the domestic experience. It was one of his essays that inspired the “real world” poems of Every Night of Our Lives. As he states, “the most meaningful and harrowing adventures which I and many like me have experienced have had to do with the rearing of children.” Anyone who’s witnessed a febrile seizure or spent a night in Emergency with a sick child can attest to this. Parenting is an extreme form of “learn as you go”; often you find yourself wondering in the dark with the life of a small human hanging in the balance. In the end, it comically becomes routine. These poems serve as a bit of a reminder of how precarious, and yes, meaningful, it can be.

      How much does pop culture play into your writing?

      In the process of writing this collection, I’ve learned that pop culture is pervasive and insidious. Christopher Hitchens, the host of Dirtiest Jobs, the Cousins from Breaking Bad, and even band members from Rage Against the Machine have all made appearances in my dreams, and therefore in these poems. I’ve never even watched Dirtiest Jobs.

      Rocco de Giacomo - Every Night of Our LivesThe cover of your book is very vibrant and interesting. How does it fit with the overall tone of the collection, and did you help design it? 

      I’m glad you like it. I am very happy with it. I reviewed hundreds of possibilities and over a weekend Michael [Mirolla] helped me whittle them down to about three or four. The cover image was chosen not only for its vibrancy, but also for the way the colours contrast with the slumbering figure they compose. The whole package, coupled with the clear, stark lettering, fits well with the themes of the book.

      How do you write? Do you have a routine or do you wait for inspiration?

      I think I spend about eighty percent of my writing time editing. It’s a process that never stops. I’ve seen poems of mine published in literary journals and felt a helpless desire to tweak them. As well, over the last decade or so, my scope has changed from individual poems to thinking in terms of projects and manuscripts.

      My day-to-day routine varies with my work hours. I prefer writing in early mornings, but these days I write in afternoons between my classes. I try for about two and a half to three hours a day, and push to compose a poem a week. I spend one week a month submitting to literary journals and researching calls, grants and contests.

      You have been published in so many of the top literary magazines in Canada. What’s your secret?

      Literary journals have been very good to me. As for my secret, I try not to take rejection personally and have learned to treat rejection slips like monthly bills. Writer James Lee Burke states that he never keeps a manuscript in his house for more than thirty-six hours; it has to be under consideration somewhere. I’ve applied his ethic to my poetry and have made sure, at all times, about one hundred of my poems are out of the house and being reviewed by various editors.

      What are you working on now? 

      I’m finishing up on my third manuscript, entitled “Brace Yourselves”. It is a language experiment that explores, via the internet, how the world at large reacts to tragic, turbulent and sometimes trivial events.

      Where and when is your next reading after the launch?

      I’ll be at Word Up in Barrie on October 13th, and Oakville Literary Cafe in Oakville on November 20th.

      What advice do you have for young poets trying to write about their lives?

      I’ve learned that the tender spots, the places we try to avoid thinking about, are often the most fertile grounds for poetry.

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