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 and issues so far have included ecology and urban gardening, policing and incarceration, poverty and income inequality, refugee experience, disability justice, and the climate crisis. Poets who have joined us so far include 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 issues to be considered within the series will include living as an undocumented person in the U.S.; transgender rights, health and safety; and domestic and sexual violence.



Founded in 2020, In-Na-Po—Indigenous Nations Poets—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 ninth year in 2023, Poetry in the Park is a seasonal outdoor public reading series held at Milwaukee's Juneau Park in dramatic backdrop of Lake Michigan. A collaboration between Juneau Park Friends, Woodland Pattern, and local curators, 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.


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 Woodland Pattern programming for young people.


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 nearly 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. 


Lynden Writers in Residence

Through a longstanding collaboration with the Lynden Sculpture Garden, we have been able to invite two writers each year to conduct extended workshops using the grounds and art works at Lynden as inspiration. Other attendant activities include public readings at Woodland Pattern by the visiting writers, tours of the garden, and a closing reading and reception for workshop participants. Writers-in-residence have included Anne Boyer, Emily Kendal Frey, Duriel Harris, LeAnne Howe, Bhanu Kapil, Peter Markus, Ed Roberson, Elizabeth Robinson, Edward Smallfield, and TC Tolbert. (This series has been on haitus since the pandemic.)


Native Writers in the 21st Century

Now in its sixteenth 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, Santee Frazier, Joy Harjo, Gordon Henry Jr., Joan Kane, Tommy Pico, Jake Skeets, Leslie Marmon Silko, and Luci Tapahonso, 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 Fellowship, Woodland Pattern established the Milwaukee Emerging Poet Fellowship in 2022 to bring greater visibility and much needed early support to Milwaukee poets through intergenerational mentorships, access to opportunities that encourage a poet’s practice and development, and investment in ambitious literary projects for which younger poets frequently lack resources. Additionally, the Milwaukee Emerging Poet Fellow receives an honorarium and book allowance, as well as support from our staff in caring out their project. Poets under 30 are welcome to apply for the next cycle of this fellowship in June 2023.


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 first Youth Poet Laureate will be chosen on April 15, 2023!


New Poetry Series

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


Through Lines

Sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts, Through Lines is a series focused on lyric innovation in contemporary American poetry. Poets in this series have included Eric Baus, Ana Božičević, Marilyn Chin, Joshua Edwards, Jibade Khalil-Huffman, Annie Grizzle, and Siwar Masannat, among others. Featured here is a clip of Huffman's performance as part of the series and 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 this series so far have 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. As of 2022, Unwriting Borders is supported with funding from the National Endowment of the Arts and will be expanded in 2023 to include additional immigrant communities and literatures.


Visions in Publishing  

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


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 2022