The search for Milwaukee's next Youth Poet Laureate is on!

Applications for the 2024–25 cycle have now closed. Finalists will soon be notified and will receive coaching to help them prepare for a juried performance at the Milwaukee Public Library's Central Branch in May, at which the new MYPL will be selected. 

The 2024–25 Milwaukee Youth Poet Laureate will receive a $500 book allowance, paid summer internship with Woodland Pattern (including a Poetry Camp counselor position), ongoing mentorship and support from Woodland Pattern throughout the Laureateship; a full-ride scholarship to participate in UW–Madison’s Pass the Mic Festival hosted by First Wave; along with opportunities to perform around the city, compete for regional and national titles, lead writing workshops for fellow youth poets, and connect with local organizations to spotlight social causes.

Upcoming events:

Milwaukee Youth Poet Laureate logo in the top left, on the right side, in black line drawing, a person holding a book in one hand with the other hand active as if reading out loud, line drawings of a microphone, a pencil, a Composition notebook, and decorative shapes float above the reader.

Sat. April 27 | 2-4 pm: Teen Poetry Fest at Mitchell Street branch of the Milwaukee Public Library. (906 W. Historic Mitchell Street.) DETAILS

Sat. May 18 | 2-4 pm: The Milwaukee Youth Poet Laureate Finals will be held at the central branch of the Milwaukee Public Library in Centennial Hall. (733 N. 8th Street.) 

Join us as we name Milwaukee’s second Youth Poet Laureate! Hosted by Milwaukee Public Library and emceed by former Wisconsin Poet Laureate and Woodland Pattern Board Member Margaret Rozga, the program will feature performances by our three finalists, along with an appearance and reading by Milwaukee’s inaugural Youth Poet Laureate, Emily Igwike.

Judges for this year’s competition include poet and PhD candidate in Creative Writing at UW–Milwaukee Sean Enfield; Milwaukee Arts Board member and Manager of Afterschool Arts & Humanities at Milwaukee Recreation April Heding; and poet and Director of Woodland Pattern’s Milwaukee Queer Writing Project CJ Scruton.

Watch the 2023 Milwaukee Youth Poet Laureate Finals!

Our first ever Milwaukee Youth Poet Laureate Finals event was spectacular! We had three extraordinary finalists, each with their own style—Emily Igwike, Mabel Ciepluch, and Jonah Denae.

Last year's event also featured appearances by Michaela Lacy, former Youth Poet Laureate from Prince George’s County, Maryland (2018), and Dasha Kelly Hamilton, 2021–22 Wisconsin Poet Laureate and 2019–21 Milwaukee Poet Laureate.

The 2023 MYPL contest was judged by current Milwaukee Poet Laureate Mario "the Poet" Willis, Milwaukee Film / Cine Sin Fronteras Program Ambassador Adilene Quezada, La Revo Books Co-Founder Barbara Cerda, and poet and PhD candidate in Creative Writing at UW-Milwaukee Angela Voras-Hills.


Meet Emily Igwike, Milwaukee’s First-Ever Youth Poet Laureate

Emily Igwike is currently serving as the 2023–24 Milwaukee Youth Poet Laureate. In Fall 2022, she was named one of five National Student Poets through the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, representing the Midwest region. A rising senior at the University School of Milwaukee, Igwike has lived in Brown Deer, Wisconsin, all her life. She is the daughter of two loving Igbo-Nigerian immigrants and enjoys the hustle and bustle of her big family, with three siblings and distant relatives rotating in and out of her house at any moment. Igwike developed her passion for writing at an early age by reading novels and grew fond of telling stories from countless late nights with her mother. Through poetry, she has curated her voice and let others hear her. She hopes to be a role model for young, Black girls like herself and a testament to the power of the spoken word.

Past Events featuring Emily Igwike

Sat. Feb. 17 | 11 am-12:30 pm: Youth Workshop at East Branch of the Milwaukee Public Library (2320 N. Cramer St.) DETAILS

Sun. Nov. 12 | 1:30 pm-3 pm: Youth Workshop at Central branch of the Milwaukee Public Library (814 W. Wisconsin Ave.) DETAILS

Fri. Nov. 3 | 5 pm-11 pm: Feed Your Soul Fundraiser at House of Rad (900 E. Keefe Ave.) DETAILS

Sat. Oct. 21 | 6 pm-11:00 pm: Art:Forward Gala at Milwaukee Art Museum (700 N. Art Museum Dr.) DETAILS 

Sat. Oct. 21 | 11 am-12:30 pm: Youth Workshop at Mitchell Street branch of the Milwaukee Public Library (906 W. Historic Mitchell Street.) DETAILS

Tues. June 20 | 10 am-12 pm: Juneteenth Storytime at America's Black Holocaust Museum (401 W. North Ave.)

Tues. June 13 | 6:30 pm: Poetry in the Park at Juneau Park (900 N. Prospect Ave.)

Poetry reading featuring Emily alongside Wisconsin Poet Laureate Nicholas Gulig, Madison Poet Laureate Angela Trudell Vasquez, and Michaela Lacy, former Youth Poet Laureate from Prince George’s County, Maryland (2018)


Press / Media

Listen to WUWM's Lake Effect interview with Emily.

Listen to Wisconsin Public Radio's The Morning Show segment on poetry, featuring an interview and reading with Emily.

Read the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's story about Emily. 

Read our press release on the selection of Emily Igwike as the 2023–24 Milwaukee Youth Poet Laureate.

About the 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.

Each year, the Milwaukee Youth Poet Laureate will have the opportunity to compete for national and regional titles. The National Youth Poet Laureate Competition is an initiative of Urban Word, in collaboration with local youth literary arts organizations across the country; and championed by the leading national literary and arts organizations, including the Library of Congress, Academy of American Poets, The Poetry Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, and Cave Canem.

The program identifies powerful youth poets that have a history of artistic success, civic and community engagement, social justice, and youth leadership. Over 50 partner cities participate in Urban Word’s national network of Youth Poet Laureates and compete in the National Youth Poet Laureate Competition.

Along with offering the title of local Youth Poet Laureate (YPL), Urban Word publishes poems by local YPLs in its annual National Youth Poet Laureate anthology.

MYPL in the Schools: Curriculum Support for Teachers 

Teachers in Milwaukee County interested in implementing the MYPL curriculum in their classrooms are encouraged to reach out to Assistant Programming Director Antonio Vargas-Nieto for lesson-plan materials, more information, or to schedule a class visit through the button below. Any other questions can be directed to Antonio or to the Woodland Pattern offices at 414-263-5001.

Program Sponsors

Woodland Pattern is grateful to all who have sponsored this program. Sponsors for the inaugural cycle included the Academy of American Poets, Amazon Literary Partnership, the Friends of the Milwaukee Public Library, Gardner Foundation, the Brandon Gelzer Memorial Fund at the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, the UWM Program in Creative Writing, and private donors.

Despite a strong network of partnerships and sponsors, this program is growing and still in search of support to help it grow and thrive. If you’re looking to uplift youth in Milwaukee, please consider donating!

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

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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.

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