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Free Verse: Robert Wrigley

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Reading this poem is like unwrapping a small gift — we experience the delicate and tactile opening lines, the tension built as we move through it, and surprise and delight by the end.

Robert Wrigley 

Finding a Bible in an Abandoned Cabin

Under dust plush as a moth’s wing,

the book’s leather cover still darkly shown,

and everywhere else but this spot was sodden

beneath the roof’s unraveling shingles.

There was that back-of-the-neck lick of chill

and then, from my index finger, the book

opened like a blasted bird. In its box

of familiar and miraculous inks,

a construction of filaments and dust,

thoroughfares of worms, and a silage

of silverfish husks: in the autumn light,

eight hundred pages of perfect wordless lace.

This poem comes from Wrigley’s collection Beautiful Country (Penguin, 2010). His most recent book, Anatomy of Melancholy and Other Poems (Penguin, 2013), appeared last month. Other poetry collections include Earthly Meditations: New and Selected Poems (2006); Lives of the Animals (2003); Reign of Snakes (1999), winner of the Kingsley Tufts Award; In the Bank of Beautiful Sins (1995), winner of the San Francisco Poetry Center Book Award and Lenore Marshall Award finalist; What My Father Believed (1991); Moon in a Mason Jar (1986); and The Sinking of Clay City (1979).

Wrigley was born in East St. Louis, grew up in Collinsville, and received his BA in English Language & Literature at Southern Illinois University in 1974. Wrigley's awards and honors include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Idaho State Commission on the Arts, and the Guggenheim Foundation. From 1987 until 1988 he was Idaho's writer-in-residence. Wrigley lives with his wife, the writer Kim Barnes, and their children, on the Clearwater River in Idaho. He is director of the MFA program in creative writing at the University of Idaho.

Wrigley will be reading from his work as part of a River Styx event that starts at 7:30 p.m. April 15 at the Tavern of Fine Arts, 313 Belt Ave. The cost is $5 at the door, $4 for members, students and seniors and $4 for subscribers to the Hungry Young Poets series.

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Other "Free Verse" poets: James Arthur, Janice N. Harrington, William Trowbridge, Francesca Bell, Joshua Mehigan, Jill Alexander Essbaum, Drucilla WallMichael Meyerhofer, Travis Mossotti, Allison JosephStacy Lynn Brown, Adrian Matejka, David Clewell, Catherine Rankovic,Andy CoxRodney Jones, Sara Burge, Melody Gee, Christopher Todd Anderson, Andrew Hudgins, Richard Cecil.

To learn more about River Styx, click here. Richard Newman, River Styx editor for 18 years, is the author of two full-length poetry collections, "Borrowed Towns" and "Domestic Fugues." He also co-directs the River Styx at Tavern of Fine Arts reading series.

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