On February 27, 1951, Robert Wrigley was born in East St. Louis, Illinois, and grew up in Collinsville, a coal mining town. He received his BA (with honors) in English Language & Literature at Southern Illinois University in 1974, and his MFA in Poetry from the University of Montana in 1976, where he studied with Madeline DeFrees, John Haines, and Richard Hugo.
His collections of poetry include Beautiful Country (Penguin, 2010); 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).
His work has also been published in numerous anthologies and literary journals. 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, as well as the J. Howard and Barbara M.J. Wood Prize, the Frederick Bock Prize from Poetry magazine, the Wagner Award from the Poetry Society of America, the Theodore Roethke Award from Poetry Northwest, and two Pushcart Prizes. From 1987 until 1988 he served as the state of Idaho's writer-in-residence.
Wrigley lives with his wife, the writer Kim Barnes, and their children, on the Clearwater River in Idaho. He has taught at Lewis-Clark College, at the University of Oregon, twice at the University of Montana, where he returned to hold the Richard Hugo Chair in Poetry, and at Warren College. He is the Director of the MFA program in creative writing at the University of Idaho.