Try Poetry: Casting Out + Rocco de Giacomo

Rocco de Giacomo shares with us his first poem, ‘For Then Shall Be Great Tribulation’, from his recently released collection Casting Out(Guernica Editions). For new poetry readers, de Giacomo also recommends exploring your local bookstore to select collections off the shelf that spark your interest, as everyone has a different taste in poetry.


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Interview with Rocco de Giacomo

ALU: When was the moment that you decided you wanted to write poetry? Describe it for our readers. Was it reading another poem? Was it listening to a poet read? Was it something different entirely?

Rocco de Giacomo: I’ve written poetry for as long as I can remember, but I think there were two instances in my life that made me want to become a poet. The first instance was listening to my Grade 13 (long story) English Lit teacher read the Hollow Men by TS Eliot. I was awestruck by her delivery of the poem, and I realised that I wanted to create poetry that would affect other people the way the Hollow Men affected me in that moment. The second instance was a serious medical scare I had in my early twenties. The prolonged existential crisis of waiting for the medical results completely upended my inner life, and both the reading and creation of poetry helped me get through that difficult period. From then on, writing poetry has been a priority in my life. .

ALU: If you had to pitch your featured poem to someone who had never read poetry before, how would you do so? What kinds of things do you think the new-to-poetry reader might find fascinating about it? What could you share about the poem’s writing process?

Rocco de Giacomo: “For Then Shall be Great Tribulation” is a window into the lives of people who believe that, at any moment, they, their family members, could vanish into thin air as they are teleported to heaven by the Christian God to spare them from the seven years of pain and persecution the Antichrist and his legion of followers would inflict upon the world. The poem is a glimpse of the effects of communal belief and the separate reality it can create for its followers, a role-playing game that never ends.

As it is the first poem in the collection, “For Then Shall Be Great Tribulation” serves as an introduction into the world of Christian Pentecostalism. It was important for me to create a descriptive piece with a bit of flourish and momentum in order to keep the tone whimsical and the phrasing easy to follow. With this piece, it was my goal to arouse curiosity in the reader, for them to ask “How does a person come to believe this?” or “What is it like to live day-to-day with these beliefs?”. The answers are in the collection.

ALU:What’s a poetry collection or individual poem that you’d recommend to anyone looking to get into poetry?

Rocco de Giacomo: Tastes in poetry vary greatly from person to person. For someone looking to get into the art form, I would recommend going to your local bookstore, grabbing an armful of poetry books at random off the shelf, sitting down and reading until you find a book or author that you like. And just keep reading. A more modern version of this would be to search “poetry” on Instagram and read whatever comes up. Make sure to follow the poets or poetry groups that you like.

‘For Then Shall Be Great Tribulation’

From Rocco de Giacomo’s collection Casting Out.

Bank cards are the beginning,
Mom says. The Antichrist will make sure you can’t buy food
without his number tattooed on your arm.
Grandma sits beside me in the back seat;
says, six, six, six, as if completing
one of her crosswords. Dad pumps the gallons,
dwelling not on the opening
of the Seals of Judgement
nor on the sun turning black
as sackcloth, but the development
of prime real estate outside Wakefield,
Rhode Island. They are already turning
against Israel, Mom says. Whatever
you do, you must never, never, side against Zion.
Won’t matter anyway, Grandma says, we’re all going
to be taken up. Except your father, giggles Mom,
as he climbs up into the van; he doesn’t respond
although he can guess, and this
has been a nine-hour drive
already. Goddammit, the end times
at a Sunoco in Cheektowaga. Is she gonna talk
about this all day? For Christ’s sake. Harriet, would ya stop,
he’ll eventually say
loudly, and maybe she’ll stop.

Or she’ll take a long sip
of her Pepsi through the straw, peer
down the remainder
of the I-95 and decide the rapture
could happen over the Peace Bridge.
And then, poor Vito—suddenly alone
in all that quiet.

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Rocco de Giacomo is an internationally published poet whose work has appeared most recently in The Malahat Review and Canadian Literature. The author of numerous poetry chapbooks and full-length collections, his latest, Brace Yourselves – on the representation of the individual as it relates to the Zeitgeist – was published in January, 2018, through Quattro Books. His collection, Casting Out, was published in April 2023 through Guernica Editions. Rocco lives in Toronto with his wife, Lisa Keophila, a fabric artist, and his daughters, Ava and Matilda.

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Remember, if you purchase a copy of Casting Out or any of the other featured Try Poetry collections, you’ll receive a free digital sampler containing all of our featured poems. (Purchase from All Lit Up or from your local independent bookseller; send proof of payment to if you purchase from your local!)