Milwaukee Youth Poet Laureate Program

The Milwaukee Youth Poet Laureate cycle is now open for all Milwaukee County high school sophomores and juniors. Submissions close March 24, 2024. 

All styles welcome!

Application Process: Submit 5 poems + a CV outlining extracurricular activities, volunteer work, and/or academic honors. 

Finalists will be notified in April and will receive performance coaching to help them prepare for a juried event at the Milwaukee Public Library's Central Branch in May. 

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.

Upcoming events and workshops:

Sat. Mar. 9 & 16 | 1-3 pm: Information & registration help at Woodland Pattern.

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

The 2024 Milwaukee Youth Poet Laureate will receive

  • A $500 book allowance
  • A 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
  • Opportunities to:
    • Perform around the city
    • Compete for regional and national titles
    • Lead writing workshops for fellow youth poets
    • Connect with local organizations to spotlight social causes

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.

Public Events with Emily Igwike

All events are free and open to the public unless otherwise listed. 

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)


Download here to read the press release celebrating Emily Igwike

Read the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's story about Emily. 

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.

Poetry in the Schools: Supporting 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 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 include 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 many private donors.

Despite a strong network of partnerships and sponsors, this program is 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

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.

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