Fr. Pier Giorgio Di Cicco edited or wrote over 20 books. Michael Swan

Fr. Pier Giorgio Di Cicco: Priest, poet, author

  • December 29, 2019

Fr. Pier Giorgio Di Cicco — Toronto’s former poet laureate, a writer and consultant on urban affairs, jazz trumpeter, ground-breaking literary critic and the author or editor of over 20 books — has died. He was 70.

He died Dec. 22 in his residence at the St. Columbkille rectory in Uptergrove, just north of Lake Simcoe, 150 kilometres north of Toronto. No cause of death was reported.

Born in Arezzo, Italy, in 1949, Di Cicco came to Canada with his family in 1952. Di Cicco was raised in Toronto and Baltimore, but settled down as a young man in Toronto, tending bar and attending the University of Toronto. He had a meteoric rise to prominence on Toronto’s literary scene with poetry collections including 1977’s Dancing in the House of Cards.

In 1978 he edited a collection of Italian-Canadian poetry that was a landmark in the history of Canadian literature. Roman Candles staked a claim to Canada’s literary landscape for immigrant communities.

In 1984 Di Cicco joined the Augustinians and eventually progressed through a Master’s of Divinity to ordination in 1990. Throughout this period he remained silent as a poet. After leaving the Augustinians to become a priest of the Toronto archdiocese, he returned to poetry publishing Living in Paradise in 2001.

On his return to literary life, he was astoundingly prolific, publishing weekly poems in The Toronto Star in the mid-2000s, then later doing the same in The Catholic Register.

In 2004-05 he taught Italian and Canadian literature at St. Michael’s College in the University of Toronto. Beginning in 2005 he was Toronto’s first-ever poet laureate, serving four years in the post. He oversaw efforts to name back-alleys throughout the city. He was in demand as a consultant on urban affairs and teamed up with the urban planner Richard Florida.

His last book of poetry was Wishipedia, published by Mansfield Press in 2018.

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