27th Annual Poetry Marathon & Benefit

Saturday, Jan. 30 & Sunday, Jan. 31 | 10 am–10 pm CT 

For the past 26 years we’ve held the Marathon on the last Saturday of January. Typically, this annual event features 150 poets over the course of 15 hours, with hundreds more people in attendance to simply enjoy the good company and variety of amazing readings. This year, due to the pandemic, we’re unable to safely host the Marathon in person at the book center. While we will dearly miss the opportunity to connect directly with our community of poets as we have for nearly three decades, we also see this year as an opportunity to expand the reach of the Marathon by collaborating with poets and presses both in Milwaukee and beyond.

Here’s the scheme: We plan to livecast pre-recorded performances by as many as 240 poets over the course of 2 days and 24 hours! As usual, each block will feature 10 poets reading for 5 minutes each, plus live remarks and conversation among curators, our staff, and audience members. Chat will be enabled throughout so we can all show our love and support for poets in real time, and say hello to one another as we come and go. 

In addition to being an incredible event and a Woodland Pattern tradition, the Poetry Marathon serves as a community-driven fundraiser. Each reader is asked to raise a small amount of funds among family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc., and/or via social media, with a goal of $40 in pledges on each reader’s behalf. Those pledges are then matched by a presenting sponsor for each hour. For years, funds raised through the Marathon have kept Woodland Pattern going strong, fueling our operations and making possible all of our programming for the year ahead. 

Thank you in advance for celebrating the present and future of Woodland Pattern, and for participating in this historic gathering of poets from near and far! Check back here in January for a full schedule of readings as well as information about how to attend the event.

REGISTER TO READ: See information below.

SPONSOR A POET: Click the link below to sponsor a reader now. You can make your donation on the behalf of a particular poet, or if you’re unsure who to sponsor, consider a “Pledge a Reader” donation. Money received through these donations will go directly to a poet who is unable to meet the $40 pledge goal. This is a great way to support Woodland Pattern and a poet—win-win!

If you prefer, you can also give us a call at 414-263-5001 to sponsor a reader, or send a check donation to: Woodland Pattern, 720 E Locust St, Milwaukee, WI 53212. Please be sure to include the reader's name, if relevant.

SPONSOR AN HOUR: Each hour of the Marathon is matched by a major sponsor. To underwrite an hour now, click on the link below. We can also accept sponsorships by mail or over the phone.

If you would like to learn more about sponsorship, please download our sponsorship materials below, or give us a call or email us at info[at]woodlandpattern[dot]org.



This year, some hours of the Marathon will be curated by small presses and poets from around the country, while others will feature long-standing hours curated by groups and individuals from Milwaukee and the surrounding region. But please note—you do not have to be affiliated with any particular group to participate. 

Word of advice: Be sure to register early! Marathon slots always fill quickly. If you happen to register after all open slots have been filled, your name will be put on a waitlist and you will be notified. And finally, don't forget to check out our FAQs for poets.

Deadline to sign up to read is Tuesday, December 15, 2020. Deadline for materials submission is Thursday, January 7, 2021.


For general registration, click on "open registration" or call us at 414-263-5001. If you have been invited to take part in a curated hour or group reading, click on "curated hours" to fill out your registration information.


Q: I've read in the Marathon before—how will this year be different?

A: For participating poets, one key difference (beyond the fact that your reading will be pre-recorded) is that you will not need to sign up for a specific time to read. That said, you can contact us if you have preferences about when your performance is broadcast, and we will do our best to honor requests. All poets will receive confirmation about when their reading will air from our Literary Program Director Mike Wendt in January. 

Q: What platform(s) will be available for people to watch the Marathon?

A: This year's Marathon will presented via Crowdcast and simultaneously streamed over Facebook and Youtube. Attendees will not need to download a platform like Zoom or enter a registration code to attend.

Q: Do I have to register online?

A: No, you can also give us a call at 414-263-5001 and we can assist you.

Q: Does it cost $40 to read?

A: No, the $40 pledge for each poet is not meant as an entry fee, but as a minimum fundraising goal. Poets are asked to find sponsors to help meet that goal. By asking people to sponsor you, you not only help us raise funds, but also help spread the word about the Marathon and your performance in it.

Q: I'm not sure if I can raise $40. What if I can't meet the pledge goal?

A: Click here for a list of fundraising strategies that have been successful for other participating poets in the past. In our experience, most of the time poets are able to find donations to help them meet the minimum pledge goal. However, if you try and just aren't able, you will not be turned away! 

Q: How do I create a good video?

A: Click here for tips!

Q: I want to perform in the Marathon and read the tips but am still not sure how to record a video of myself.

A: If you'd like us to assist you with your video recording, we are happy to do that by scheduling a Zoom call with you. For help creating your video, please contact us at the link below or call 414-263-5001. 

Q: Can my video go over 5 minutes?

A: As always, each poet participating in the Marathon is asked to limit their performance to five minutes. Part of what makes the Marathon so special is the equality of time and attention afforded each reader and the variety of poets who appear side by side. Keeping your video to five minutes ensures that everyone's voice is heard.

Q: How do I send Woodland Pattern my video?

A: After you've registered, you will receive instructions for uploading your video via Submittable. You'll also be asked to provide the text to your poems for closed captioning purposes. If you have registered and would like to submit your materials now, click on the button above. Attention: please do not submit your materials without registering first!

Q: I'm having trouble uploading my video—help!

A: Please contact us at the link below or call 414-263-5001. We will respond as soon as possible. 

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–Fri | 11-8pm

Sat & Sun | 12–5 pm | Closed Mon

Contactless pick-up: Wed–Fri | 2–6 pm, Sat | 2–5 pm

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 in the process of obtaining captioning services for its online events and can provide ASL interpretation for live events. Please contact us with accommodation requests and questions.

© Woodland Pattern 2020