Humans of PCC: Instructor Justin Rigamonti
Justin Rigamonti grew up near the Rock Creek Campus, spent 10 years in southern California studying art and writing, then moved back to Portland, where he teaches, writes, makes kid’s books, and co-runs a literary nonprofit called Poetry Press Week. He was interviewed by Jake Edgar, managing editor of The Bridge.
JE: How long have you been teaching @PCC?
JR: Winter of 2011, I don’t know, someone do the math.
JE: That’s about six years, so what first interested you in teaching english?
JR: My first experience in front of a classroom was when I wrote and illustrated a kid’s book in 1997, back when I was still practically a kid myself and a few of my current students weren’t born. After the book was published, I had the pleasure of going around and talking to grade-schoolers about writing and drawing for a year, and enough of the teachers flattered me with praise about how well I was doing that the idea of staying in front of a classroom stuck. When I got out of grad school, I just jumped straight into it.
JE: And do you prefer teaching essay writing, or poetry?
JR: Poetry or essays? I like that thoughts spool around inside the shadowy wet muck of our skulls and we can pull those thoughts out of the electric muck and record them on a page using language. I like that no matter whether we make our thoughts into essays or poetry, it’s always simultaneously personal and collaborative, communal, this muck-making.
JE: Speaking of poetry do you see a strong purpose for poetry in contemporary culture? I mean, a lot of people think of poetry as a bunch of dead white guys talking about nature, but that isn’t really the case anymore right?
JR: Yes. The poetry community in the US suffers as many dead white guys as any other community, and we’ve got our fair share of racist/sexist living white guys, too, but we’ve also been graced with a bunch of incredibly intelligent, incredibly talented young poets of color, queer poets, feminist poets. And this new generation of poets is revitalizing, like breathing real honest-to-god life, back into the art form that everyone had written off as dead. Poets like Aziza Barnes, Layli Long Soldier, Fatimah Asghar, Morgan Parker, Danez Smith, Philip B. Williams, Ocean Vuong. And they’re writing deeply political poetry, profound and personal and life-changing. It’s really exciting to watch and read.
JR: The Pointed Circle is Cascade Campus’s student run literary magazine– it’s fantastic and anyone, including any PCC student, can submit to it. Just send up to 6 pages of poetry or fiction as an email attachment with your name and a short bio to firstname.lastname@example.org We accept submissions all the way till March, but send them now! If you want a free copy of last year’s journal, go to the Cascade Writing Center in Terrell Hall 220 and ask for one.