Idaho Poet and Professor Robert Wrigley Earns Sixth Pushcart Prize

Friday, May 8 2009

May 8, 2009

Written by Donna Emert

MOSCOW, Idaho – Poet and University of Idaho Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing faculty member Robert Wrigley has earned an astounding sixth Pushcart Prize.

The most recent award is for his poem, “Beautiful Country,” which first appeared in the 2008 edition of the poetry journal MARGIE. The poem will be reprinted in "Pushcart Prize XXXIV: Best of the Small Presses," 2010 edition.

“It is both rare and wonderful that Bob has won so many Pushcart Prizes,” said Brandon Schrand, director of the Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing Program. “It’s rare to be nominated for the award, but rarer to be selected out of the thousands of nominations each year, let alone six times."

"Moreover it is a significant award because the Pushcart Prize showcases the finest literary talent each year and has done so for over three decades. It is an institution, and for Bob to have been selected a half-dozen times suggests a lasting, uncontestable seat in the literary world," said Schrand.

The award also is significant for Wrigley’s students, graduate students, and for the creative writing program generally, as it further validates what the students already know: that they are studying with one of the best poets writing today.

The winning poem, “Beautiful Country” also serves as the title poem of Wrigely’s new collection, to be published by Penguin in 2010.

Wrigley teaches poetry writing in the University of Idaho’s Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program and has published seven collections of poems: "Earthly Meditations: New and Selected Poems" (Penguin, 2006); "Lives of the Animals" (Penguin, 2003); "Reign of Snakes" (Penguin, 1999); "What My Father Believed" (University of Illinois Press, 1997); "In the Bank of Beautiful Sins" (Penguin, 1995); "Moon in a Mason Jar" (University of Illinois Press, 1986); and "The Sinking of Clay City" (Copper Canyon Press, 1979).

Wrigley is a Guggenheim Fellow. His work has earned five Pushcart prizes. He also has been honored by proclamation by the Idaho House of Representatives; received the Richard Hugo Memorial Award for Poetry; and served as Idaho Writer-in-Residence.

He earned a Celia B. Wagner Award from the Poetry Society of America, an Idaho Commission on the Arts Fellowship, several National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, a Governor’s Arts Award for Excellence in the Arts, served residency in Bellagio, Italy – awarded by the Rockefeller Foundation, received the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award and received the San Francisco Poetry Center Book Award from the American Academy of Poets. His poems have appeared in magazines and literary publications internationally, including The New Yorker and The Atlantic.

Former Pushcart Prize recipients at the University of Idaho include MFA professors Kim Barnes for her essay, “Ashes of August,” originally published in The Georgia Review; Daniel Orozco for his short story, “The Bridge,” which first appeared in Story magazine; MFA program lecturer and alumnus Jeff Jones for his essay, “Children of Cain,” which first appeared in Passages North; and MFA Program Coordinator Brandon Schrand for his essay, “Eleven Ways to Consider Air,” originally published in the literary journal, Ecotone.

The Pushcart Press is a small publishing house established in 1972 by Bill Henderson, formerly an associate editor at Doubleday. It is famous for the annual, award-winning anthology of its prize-winning authors. The press’s name evolved from a 1972 protest by writers who believed their books were not being effectively distributed by large publishing houses. The authors took their work directly to the public, selling their wares from push carts they wheeled down Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.

Henderson is aided in the selection of Pushcart Prize winners by hundreds of distinguished writers and editors. Together, they whittle down more than 8,000 submissions annually to publish the approximately 30 winning prose pieces and 30 poems that comprise the anthology.

For more information on the University of Idaho MFA program and the quality of its faculty, visit
# # #

About the University of Idaho
Founded in 1889, the University of Idaho is the state’s flagship higher-education institution and its principal graduate education and research university, bringing insight and innovation to the state, the nation and the world. University researchers attract nearly $100 million in research grants and contracts each year; the University of Idaho is the only institution in the state to earn the prestigious Carnegie Foundation ranking for high research activity. The university’s student population includes first-generation college students and ethnically diverse scholars. Offering more than 150 degree options in 10 colleges, the university combines the strengths of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. For information, visit  

Media Contact: Joni Kirk, University Communications, (208) 885-7725,

About the University of Idaho
The University of Idaho helps students to succeed and become leaders. Its land-grant mission furthers innovative scholarly and creative research to grow Idaho's economy and serve a statewide community. From its main campus in Moscow, Idaho, to 70 research and academic locations statewide, U-Idaho emphasizes real-world application as part of its student experience. U-Idaho combines the strength of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. It is home to the Vandals. For information, visit