Woodland Pattern and its partners are excited to announce the first-ever Milwaukee Youth Poet Laureate competition and initiative!

Submissions for the Laureateship will open on December 1 and close on February 15. Finalists will be selected in March and receive performance coaching to help them prepare for a city-wide competition event in April at the Milwaukee Public Library's central branch.

The Milwaukee Youth Poet Laureate will receive:

  • A $500 scholarship
  • A paid summer internship with Woodland Pattern
  • Opportunities to perform around the city and to compete regionally and nationally
  • A week-long mentorship with a former Youth Poet Laureate from elsewhere in the country
  • Support from Woodland Pattern throughout the Laureateship


Applicants must be high school juniors, and either a Milwaukee County resident or enrolled in a Milwaukee County high school

Application Process

  • Submit 5 poems + a CV outlining extracurricular activities, volunteer work, and/or academic honors by February 15, 2023. (Portal opens December 1.)
  • Finalists will be selected in March to compete at a juried Poetry Slam in April.
Want help with your poems or CV?

Woodland Pattern will offer two FREE workshops on February 2 and 9, led by teaching poets Annie Grizzle, Destinny Fletcher, and Antonio Vargas-Nieto, to help students prepare their submissions. 

The first will focus on generating new poems and the second will help students edit their work, prepare their CV, and submit their applications. Both workshops will be held at 4 pm at Woodland Pattern.

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.

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

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Milwaukee, WI 53212
Phone: 414 263 5001

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