Poetry at Woodland Pattern

Poetry has always been the cornerstone of our multi-arts programming. Each year we present dozens of readings, workshops, book releases, and special events that feature poets both from our region and from around the country. Below you will find information about current and/or ongoing programs, including some of our longest-running series and special events. 

The First Function of Poetry

In 2020, Woodland Pattern began a new series of readings, conversations, and workshops focused on the intersection between poetry and social justice. Topics so far have included ecology and urban gardening, policing and incarceration, poverty and income inequality, refugee experience, disability justice, trans and nonbinary poetics, and the climate crisis, while perennially also confronting compounding issues such as race and ethnicity. Poets who have joined us so far include George Abraham, Ching-in Chen, Chrysanthemum, Ross Gay, Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Tongo Eisen-Martin, Cecily Nicholson, Jasmine Gibson, D.S. Marriott, Craig Santos Perez, Stacy Szymaszek, Dunya Mikhail, and Mai Der Vang, among others.

Forthcoming topics to be addressed within the series include addiction and recovery; and domestic and sexual violence.


Indigenous Nations Poets

Founded in 2020, Indigenous Nations Poets (In-Na-Po) is a national Indigenous poetry community committed to mentoring emerging writers, nurturing the growth of Indigenous poetic practices, and raising the visibility of all Native Writers past, present, and future. In-Na-Po recognizes the role of poetry in sustaining tribal sovereign nations and Native languages. Woodland Pattern is In-Na-Po's fiscal receiver, and our executive leaders serve on In-Na-Po's advisory board.


Poetry in the Park

Entering its tenth year in 2024, Poetry in the Park is a seasonal outdoor public reading series pairing local and visiting poets held at Milwaukee's Juneau Park in dramatic backdrop of Lake Michigan. A collaboration between Juneau Park Friends and Woodland Pattern, the program has proven broadly appealing, drawing hundreds of devotees and passersby alike. Poetry in the Park is held on the second Tuesdays of June, July, August, and September (weather permitting) at 6:30 pm. This series is sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and Juneau Park Friends.

Among the many poets who have recently appeared in this series are Bryon Cherry, Paul Druecke, Susan Firer, Nicholas Gulig, Derrick Harriel, Duriel E. Harris, Ish Klein, Mark Leidner, Tiffany Miller, Zack Pieper, Chelsea Tadeyeske, Ed Roberson, Margaret Rozga, Abraham Smith, Angela Trudell Vasquez, and Mario Willis.


Poetry Camp

Since 1999, our summer Poetry Camps have touched approximately 1,500 young lives in Milwaukee while also supporting the careers of some of the city’s most outstanding teaching artists and youth advocates. Both poetry-centric and multidisciplinary in focus, Poetry Camp offers a range of creative activities and formative experiences that help students aged 12–18 find and celebrate their voices. Each year, we offer two one-week sessions—including instruction, meals, field trips, and a $100 book allowance—completely free of cost to families. Visit our Youth page to learn more about this program and all other literary arts activities supporting children and teens.


Poetry Coalition 

Woodland Pattern is part of a national alliance of more than 25 poetry organizations working together to promote the value poets bring to our culture and the important contribution poetry makes in the lives of people of all ages and backgrounds. Each year we work with the Coalition to coordinate programming around a theme of social importance that poetry can effectively address, and collaborate to bring more visibility and funding to our field.


Poetry Marathon

Woodland Pattern’s most highly anticipated annual event, the Poetry Marathon is a two-day, 24-hour lyrical extravaganza with performances from more than 300 individual poets, musicians, and moving image artists. Held each year on the last weekend of January for three decades, the Marathon brings together poets and artists of all ages from the city, state, and region, as well as from locales around the country and the world. 

Our 2024 Marathon is available to watch on YouTube! 

Native Writers in the 21st Century

Now in its seventeenth season, this ongoing reading, workshop, and lecture series focuses on presenting Indigenous writers of significant stature or promise at every stage of their careers. Visiting writers have included Sherwin Bitsui, Kimberly Blaeser, Julian Talamantez Brolaski, Kinsale Drake, Jennifer Foerster, Santee Frazier, Joy Harjo, Gordon Henry Jr., Joan Kane, Tommy Pico, Jake Skeets, Leslie Marmon Silko, Luci Tapahonso, and Laura Tohe, among many others. Sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts.


Milwaukee Emerging Poet Fellowship 

Drawing inspiration from both the Mary L. Nohl Fund Emerging Artist Fellowship and the Poetry Project’s Emerge Surface Be program, Woodland Pattern established the Milwaukee Emerging Poet Fellowship program in 2022 to bring greater visibility and much-needed early support to Milwaukee poets through mentorships, access to opportunities that encourage a poet’s practice and development, and investment in literary projects for which younger poets frequently lack resources. The Milwaukee Emerging Poet Fellowship program also seeks to make available alternative avenues of support for emerging poets outside traditional academic-track poetry programs and environments. 

2024 Milwaukee Emerging Poet Fellows are Tasneem Jassar and Ben Binversie!

Tasneem Jassar has been awarded the 2024 Milwaukee Emerging Poet Fellowship in the Practice category. Over the next eight months, Tasneem will receive ongoing support for her writing practice from mentoring poet Ae Hee Lee, author of ASTERISM, selected by John Murillo for the 2022 Dorset Prize and forthcoming from Tupelo Press. Tasneem's fellowship also includes a $500 book allowance and free admission to all Woodland Pattern workshops. 

Ben Binversie has been awarded the 2024 Milwaukee Emerging Poet Fellowship in the Project category. Ben's project will consist of workshops and gatherings that invite poetry in connection with our local watersheds, in search of "watershed moments." Ben will receive administrative support from our staff, along with a $1,500 project budget to carry out his vision. 


Milwaukee Youth Poet Laureate Program

Established in 2022 by Woodland Pattern and Wisconsin Poet Laureate Dasha Kelly Hamilton—in partnership with Milwaukee Public Library, Milwaukee Public Schools, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's Writing Project, and UWM's Graduate Program in Creative Writing—the Milwaukee Youth Poet Laureate program is part of the national affiliation of Youth Poet Laureate programs, administrated by Urban Word.

Milwaukee's program uniquely features a course curriculum for high school juniors that places equal emphasis on creative writing and critical thinking, preparing students to become thought leaders. Designed by Hamilton with flexibility and teacher support in mind, the course is MPS–approved and interested teachers may implement it in whole or in part. 

Milwaukee's inaugural and outgoing Youth Poet Laureate is Emily Igwike, a senior at University School of Milwaukee. On May 18, 2024, Aleena Ahmed, a sophomore at Nicolet High School was selected as her successor. Please stay tuned for a full press release!


New Poetry Series

This series pairs national and regional poets celebrating new and recent book publications. Poets have included Rosa Alcalá, Mary-Kim Arnold, Kimberly Blaeser, Daniel Borzutzky, Leila Chatti, Franklin K.R. Cline, Kate Colby, Tim Donnelly, Destinny Fletcher, Becca Klaver, Faisal Mohyuddin, Hieu Minh Nguyen, Morgan Parker, Bethany Price, Angela Trudell-Vasquez, Sandra Simonds, William Stobb, Beatrice Szymkowiak, and Nikki Wallschlaeger.


Small Press Appreciation 

Funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, Small Press Appreciation (aka Visions in Publishing) is an ongoing series celebrating publishers doing passionate and exemplary cultural work outside the mainstream. Established in 2021, this series has so far highlighted City Lights Publishers, VA Press, Rescue Press, and Obsidian: Literature and Arts in the African Diaspora.

In fall 2024, Woodland Pattern will host readings and a panel discussion with poets and editors from Oxeye Press.


Through Lines

Sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts, Through Lines is a series focused on lyric innovation in contemporary American poetry, and particularly seeks to highlight poets whose work at times intersects with the visual and/or sonic arts. Poets in this series have included Eric Baus, Ana Božičević, Marilyn Chin, Claire Crews, Joshua Edwards, Annie Grizzle, Jibade Khalil-Huffman, Imani Elizabeth Jackson, and Siwar Masannat, among others. Upcoming poets to appear in this series include Dara Barrois/Dixon, Fred Moten, and JJJJJerome Ellis.

Featured here is a clip of Huffman's performance as part of the series during its inaugural season, in conjuction with the December 8, 2019 opening of To Sight's Limit, a complementing group photography exhibition examining the visual practices of poets.

Unwriting Borders 

Originally sponsored by the Milwaukee Arts Board and curated by Roberto Harrison, Unwriting Borders: Latinx Poetry in the U.S. seeks to counter via poetry the harmful rhetoric and attendant violence often experienced by Latinx communities. Some of the poets featured in the first iteration of this series included José Felipe Alvergue, Edgar Garcia, elena minor, Lara Mimosa Montes, Urayoán Noel, Gabriel Ojeda-Sagué, Maryam Ivette Parhizkar, Paul Martínez Pompa, Eléna Rivera, Raquel Salas Rivera, Dominique Salas, Elías Sepulveda, Jennif(f)er Tamayo, and Lila Zemborain.

Since 2022, Unwriting Borders has been supported with funding from the National Endowment of the Arts and has been expanded to include additional diasporic communities and literatures. More recently in September 2023, the series featured Samuel A. Adeyemi, Nikitta Dede Adjirakor, O-Jeremiah Agbaakin, Rabha Ashry, Jakky Bankong-Obi, Hazem Fahmy, Alain Hirwa, Jay Kophy, Tawiah Mensah, Phodiso Modirwa, and Nneoma Veronica Nwogu in partnership with the African Poetry Book Fund. 

Upcoming poets to be featured in this series include Lynn Xu, Dolores Dorantes, and Marwa Helal.


We acknowledge that in Milwaukee we live and work on traditional Potawatomi, Ho-Chunk, and Menominee homelands along the southwest shores of Michigami, part of North America’s largest system of freshwater lakes, where the Milwaukee, Menominee, and Kinnickinnic rivers meet and the people of Wisconsin’s sovereign Anishinaabe, Ho-Chunk, Menominee, Oneida, and Mohican nations remain present. 

We further acknowledge the grave evil colonialism introduced to these lands ​through genocide as well as slavery, and also via racist and xenophobic ​beliefs, laws​, and practices that continue to inflict harm upon Black, brown, and Indigenous lives. We honor those who have lived—and do live, now—at these intersections of identity and experience, and are committed to the active dismantling of white supremacy.

Read our statement on racial justice

720 E. Locust Street
Milwaukee, WI 53212
Phone: 414 263 5001

Hours: Tues–Sun | 12-7 pm

Closed Mon

Building Accessibility: Despite the age of our physical location, and attendant limitations to access, Woodland Pattern is committed to making its programs and facilities available for as many as possible. Please call for more information.

Events Accessibility: Woodland Pattern is able to offer captioning services for its online events and with advanced notice can provide ASL interpretation for live events. Please contact us with accommodation requests and questions.

© Woodland Pattern 2024