Chewing Up Wrigley


Award winning poet Robert Wrigley speaks at the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival in England, Nov. 9, 2013

A well-known bookstore, a local poet, and a poem about a guy who refers to himself in the alternative first person will come together at the Book Awards ceremony on Saturday.

Robert Wrigley and his wife live in the Moscow Mountains and are both professors at the University of Idaho. Wrigley’s wife, Kim Barnes, is a WSU graduate and novelist. Wrigley writes poetry and also teaches poetry at UI.

“I wanted to be a writer, and I thought I would write novels,” Wrigley said. “Then I took a poetry writing class as an undergrad and it just changed my life.”

That was in 1972. Today, Wrigley continues to write poetry and has since published eight books. His inspiration is something he worked his way into as he puts words on paper. Some of his inspiration sources come from the natural world that surrounds his home in the woods.

Their works have taken them from Eastern Oregon University to writer’s retreats in Italy, making public appearances to promote their writings and draw attention to UI’s graduate writing program.

Wrigley’s most recent book, “Anatomy of Melancholy and Other Poems,” won him the Book Award from the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association (PNBA). The PNBA is an organization that connects with independent bookstores to organize events such as book signings and author visits.

Every year bookstores within the PNBA region nominate authors for the PNBA’s Book Award, which is one of the top awards in the region. This year BookPeople of Moscow’s nomination of Wrigley made it to the list of winners for the 2014 award.

“It’s neat that a small town is able to bring in some of this art and culture and have the personalized interaction with an author,” said Jesica DeHart, assistant manager of BookPeople of Moscow.

Although it was difficult to choose, Wrigley said one of his favorite poems in the book is “First Person.” Featuring a speaker who lives in the woods, the poem tells how this character goes out, lies under a tree, and just takes in everything around him.

Soon, his first person speech alters until he’s referring to himself as “one.” The poem becomes a meditation of the word and takes on an old theme about the awareness of mortality.

Wrigley said his favorite thing about writing poetry is the hard work.

“But I like the kind of attention it requires of me,” he said. “I fell in love with the process of writing.”

Authors who win the Book Award also choose where the award ceremony will take place. As a loyal customer for many years, Wrigley chose BookPeople for his award ceremony.

“Mr. Wrigley wanted to have the award acknowledged locally,” said Doug Heckman, director of the Masters of Fine Arts program at UI. “He lived in this area for a long time and BookPeople is important to him.”

BookPeople’s connections to UI and Wrigley are among many that the independent bookstore has with authors across the region. The store has a nice space for readings and other events such as the reception for Wrigley’s award, Heckman said.

“It’s a very sweet honor for an author to be awarded something from the people trying to sell your books,” Wrigley said.

The award ceremony will take place at 7 p.m. at BookPeople in downtown Moscow.