Home / Interviews / Wrigley

Robert Wrigley Go to Transcript

Location: Moscow, ID | Date: November 21, 2013

Robert Wrigley’s poems have been published in a number of journals, including Poetry, The Atlantic,... Full Bio and Bibliography

"Most fundamentally, of course, is the computer. I have one laptop. That's my private computer, which sometimes I compose on. Always I compose prose on the computer. I can't imagine being a prose writer and writing in long hand, but some people do. Beyond that, I have pencils and pens and note books."

From interview section 1, "Composition and Devices: Digital and Analog"

"I print-off a lot of things. There's a pile of drafts back here that in fact need to be moved to a box, but I haven't brought the new box up from the house. Usually, a box will take two years to fill and then it goes into storage in the basement until somebody offers me enough money for it. And then they can have all the boxes."

From interview section 2, "Saving Pre-writing Notes and Drafts"

"I have this, which is sort of the in-process folder—a little 'thesis binder,' they're called at Harvard. In the back go all the poems that have been published with the name of the magazine on it and in front are the ones that are still in progress."

From interview section 3, "Archiving Published and In-Progress Work"

"I'm a product of the creative writing industry. I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to write novels. I wanted to write novels that sold a lot of copies, made me a lot of money. I wanted to live in the South of France...But then I got waylaid by poetry..."

From interview section 4, "Writing Career and Education"

"I hate using the word 'idea', though, talking about poems, because people always ask things like...'Where do you get your ideas for poems?' I always want to say, 'What ideas? Where?' Because they tend not to come from ideas, they tend to come from words or phrases or images, or something I've seen outside the window."

From interview section 5, "Composition: Generating Ideas and Analog 'Noodling'"

"Looking at it on the screen gives it the appearance more of a kind of permanence, which is dangerous, I think. It would have been dangerous for me in the beginning, I think, to compose on a word processor or a typewriter because it might have given me this inclination toward a particular kind of structure that in fact would not have been as interesting or as evocative to me."

From interview section 6, "Composition: Digital"

"Somewhere along the line, I began to prefer the process to the product because that's the place where all the excitement happens. That's the place where you surprise yourself. The process of revision is certainly made so much more fluid and swift with the computer than it ever could have been with writing longhand..."

From interview section 7, "Learning to Revise Digitally"

"It's a luxury to have time. It's an even greater luxury to be on sabbatical, or—as I envision it when I retire—permanent sabbatical. We'll see about that. We'll see how that works."

From interview section 8, "Daily Routine"

"Oh, I'm subtractive. Absolutely. If she weren't so old and weren't taking care of my father 24/7, I would have my mother—who always embroidered—embroider me a little sample that I can hang on the wall that says, 'Cutting is virtue,'' because it is. And I think I may be part of the lineage of poets who sometimes can't shut-up."

From interview section 9, "Modes of Revision"

"Kim is my principal reader and she knows me so well that she can tell when she needs to be supportive and can tell when she needs to be mean. Sometimes you just need to have a kick in the pants."

From interview section 10, "Collaborative Revision"

"The assemblage of the whole, and the sections they're in, becomes, also, part of the revision of the individual poems as I find ways to stitch those things together into the larger fabric."

From interview section 11, "Revising Individual Poems and Books of Poems"

"I prefer the old and seemingly laborious manual method with seriously analog notation and keeping track of things. I mean, there's no doubt that for me, it has got to be a combination of the two. Even still, I've got pencils all over the place because that's what I need to write in these things with."

From interview section 12, "Organizing and Assembling Collections"

"I've got, like, just a poem called 'Ant,' and I've got 'Ant 1,' 'Ant 2,' 'Ant 3,' because I'm not sure which of those drafts I prefer. I kind of like something about them all."

From interview section 13, "File-naming and Digital Organization"

"I cannot pay attention to so much of the sort of the professional part of it. Where I tell my students, 'Your writing is your life. Your publishing is your career. You live your life, you manage your career.'"

From interview section 14, "The Writing Life and the Writing Career"

"I mean, that's facetious, of course, but Bill Stafford always used to say, 'If you can't write, lower your standards.' That's actually tremendously good advice, too, because you lower your standards, and it can open up in so many different ways."

From interview section 15, "Deadlines and Writer's Block"

"I don't see any disadvantages really. I have sort of worries about what it might do but at this point I can't quite bring myself to go back, mainly because I'm having, it seems like I'm having good luck, and part of that may just be that I've got to that point in my life in my career as a writer where I know a lot of tricks. I know how to trick myself."

From interview section 16, "Using the Personal Computer: Advantages and Disadvantages"

"When I built the thing in 2002 I put an Ethernet cable, buried an Ethernet cable out. I am wired out here but I try to not stay connected very often because it's such an easy distraction."

From interview section 17, "Composition and the Internet"

"I think that it's just the same as with type print. I don't consider anything complete until I print it off and then send it off into the world."

From interview section 18, "On Computers and Being 'Finished'"

"If a forest fire rips-through when I'm gone and burns up the computer and all my boxes of poems and everything, then its Mozy or the cloud, and that's it. And every place in the woods in this part of Idaho burns. It's not if—it's when."

From interview section 19, "File Security"

"It made letter writing almost go away. And I wrote a lot of letters. Letters were kind of the way I warmed up when I would get into my writing space here."

From interview section 20, "Correspondence in the Digital Age"

"I'll come home and I'll immediately think of like 37 different things I should have said or ways to connect things that they said and sort of bind to our conversation together. And the email—I'll just do a class email and just, with bullets, say 'Here's this and this and this.' I can add two or three links—the things they need to consider."

From interview section 21, "Teaching in the Digital Age and Digital Natives"

"I'll sit down and I'll spend the first two hours just kind of messing around with a sonnet...it's like, with a sonnet, I don't need an idea. I just start putting words on paper."

From interview section 22, "Getting Warmed-up to Write"

Interview Materials

Writing Process Visualization (View All)

Process Narrative Excerpt:

"Robert Wrigley writes poems both by hand and at the computer, transitioning back and forth from physical to digital drafting in a kind of slow-motion bob and weave. His process begins with fleeting thoughts and images captured in pocket-size Moleskine notebooks. In addition to consulting..."

Full Process Narrative and Visualization

Generate a YouTube Transcription Poem

Browse Interview by Subject (View All)

Hover over section to read content. Click to find content within interview.

Click below to filter the visualization by subject.