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Robert Wrigley






Process Narrative

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 his own notes in the Moleskine notebooks, Wrigley might (and still does) begin by pulling a book at random off the shelf, flipping through for a word or line, anything to jog an idea. These serve as inspiration banks from which he draws ideas for new poems.

Once he starts composing, Wrigley continues in longhand–in pencil–but this time in a larger ‘Gemstone Collection’ notebook, where he will explore the initial draft until he gets ‘stuck’ or impatient. From there, Wrigely moves to typing (on an IBM Selectric during his early career, and now on a MacBook), seeking out those elements of movement and structure that reveal themselves in a typed versus hand-written format. Eventually, he will then print out a copy of the typed draft, and return to longhand for revisions and edits before transferring the changes to a digital format.

Wrigley notes the benefit of computers when it comes to structural revisions–converting quatrians to tercets, for instance, or otherwise re-ordering a poem–and the way in which digital editing facilitates experimentation with so many possibilities.

In revision, Wrigley seeks out ‘sound linkages’ and ‘evocative simplicity.’ He relies on few correspondents when it comes to the revision process, beyond his wife, memoirist and fiction writer Kim Barnes. When it comes to assemling a manuscript, Wrigley has a notetaking system of arrows and checkmarks to help track the various ways in which poems within a collection tie together. Once again, his process is a bob and weave–re-ordering poems to suit the structure of the book, and editing the individual poems themselves to reinforce that structure. During this stage as well, Wrigely maintains both digital and manual methods of notation and organization. always working with a combination of the two.

Wrigley archives work by saving to Mozy, the cloud, and his hard drive, as well as printing drafts off ‘relentlessly,’ and storing his collected papers in boxes.