We Are Woodland Pattern!

Hey Friends,

So if you don’t know, BONK! is the reading/performance series here in Racine that I curate.  This week, on the BONK! listserv, I sent a kind of letter of information concerning the Milwaukee book center, Woodland Pattern, which many consider to be the best poetry book store in the country.  Because of the horrific political climate in Wisconsin right now, Woodland Pattern is experiencing some significant financial difficulties.  I want as many people to know about this as possible.  The letter I sent out is below.  I ask two main things of you, if nothing else:

1) Will you please read it?

and 2) Will you please repost it as many places as you can and spread the word about it?

It’s on my facebook profile, so you could rip it from there and just repost it to your own.  It has also been posted by the Poetry Foundation blog, Harriet, which I’m really grateful for.  So, people I know and love who read this blog occasionally…of which I can at least think of two (my dad and sister–go guys go!)–please spread this as far as you can to other sources and try to get the word out that a legendary American cultural hub needs our help.

Okay.  Letter follows here:

poetry legend Karl Gartung, co- founder (w/ Anne Kingsbury) of WP

(warning: extremely long, but extremely important e-mail follows.  please read because I love you and want you to know stuff)
Hey BONK! Family,
Many of you already know of Woodland Pattern Book Center in Milwaukee.  For those who don’t, let me just give a short introduction.
Woodland Pattern is very often labeled the best poetry book store in the nation.  And it’s in Milwaukee.  Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  The one that’s 40 minutes away from us.  So yeah.  That should be all the introduction it needs.
Woodland Pattern recently celebrated their 30year anniversary so an introduction to the work they’ve done could go on for pages and pages.  I will spare everyone of that rambling resume, but suffice it to say that, to me, it is one of the most amazing literary hubs that I know of anywhere.  The visiting readers, musicians and artists they bring into Wisconsin couldn’t be more prestigious and, along with that, the work the Book Center does is still incredibly grass roots and down to earth.  Whether it’s holding edible book contests, sponsoring writing workshops for the public or hosting urban youth poetry camps for local children to learn about the arts in a nurturing environment, the presence of Woodland Pattern has effects that ripple far past the River West Milwaukee neighborhood where they’re located.
To be more direct, BONK! in all likelihood would not exist–or at least not in the capacity it exists now–if Woodland Pattern did not exist.  In the beginning, WP provided a template for the creation of BONK! and, even now, the only reason we learn of many performers we bring is because WP features them at an event and we simply steal the idea afterwards.
I’m writing all of this because Woodland Pattern is currently in financial trouble.  With federal budget cutting, the general economic condition and now the current Wisconsin State Budget all but eliminating the Wisconsin Arts Board and cutting fiscal sources for the arts, Woodland Pattern, which is a nonprofit agency, faces some possible deficits that they’ve never had to struggle through before.  So they need help.  And, though we are not in their immediate community, I want to emphasize just how far the benefits of Woodland Pattern reach.  We are lucky to be in the same STATE as them, let alone the same region.  And, ultimately, what that means is– creatively, artistically–we are benefitting from the work they are doing.   I imagine I’m unaware even of many of the ways I benefit from their presence but, the one thing I am sure of is that what they do is extremely important and the effects of it travel to Racine and far beyond.
If Racine’s artistic community is important to you, if Wisconsin’s creative economy is important to you, if BONK! is important to you then, whether you’ve realized it or not, Woodland Pattern is very important to you.  It is our house.  And, when our house is in trouble, we are the only ones who will protect it.  I, personally, am going to do so with a great passion and I fully encourage all of you to come with me and protect this house of the arts!
How Do we Help?
Here’s the plan, in order of importance.  Ready?–
1) If you don’t know of Woodland Pattern, go familiarize yourself at their website now.  Consider making the small trip to one of their programs soon.  In fact, if you plan to go to something, let me know so I can bum a ride from you and see it too.
2) Short on time?  Then consider becoming a WP “member.” You can do so on their website.  They ask a minimum donation of $25 for students and seniors ($35 for others), but there’s of course no limit to the amount you can donate.  Of course, they have a list of great discount and gift incentives for different donation amounts, but the real incentive, in my eyes, is supporting a legendary American institution and a champion of the arts in Wisconsin.  There is nothing better to invest some precious money into.  So become a member now!
3) “But what if I’m already a member, Nick?” you ask.
Well, you, in this time when Woodland Pattern is in extra need of our help, I suggest you upgrade your level of membership.
“Thanks, Nick, ” you respond.  “You’re the best.”
Aw, shucks.
4) Because of the ever-increasing cut-backs, Woodland Pattern will need to raise an additional $48,500 in less than seven months! Want to be a part of literary history? Be one of the people to donate money and save this Mecca of the Arts! They will even be starting an Honor Roll of responding individuals on the web-site with their names, city and state (but not amounts) and writers will be marked with an asterisk.
5) One way to help that costs no money and can be done from, say, the comfort of your local public library, is to be a Woodland Pattern spokespersonTalk to your friends about Woodland Pattern and about the trouble they’re facing.  If you’ve benefitted from or had good experiences at Woodland Pattern, talk about it and, even better, write your stories down, blog them, socially network them, etcetera!  If you come to Woodland Pattern and are up for being filmed, do a video blog! In fact, I hope anyone who does any of this contacts me with their story in an e-mail.  Not only will I publish it (or republish it) on my blog, but I will collect all that I get, and give them to Woodland Pattern (these stories can be very useful in petitioning to Foundations and other groups for funding).  Even if you haven’t experienced the wonder of Woodland Pattern yet, if you’ve experienced BONK!, you can write about that or how you believe poetry, the arts or organizations such as WP benefit our quality of life.  We can turn our separate voices into a gorgeous choir and sing Woodland Pattern back to safety!
6) The last suggestion I’ll make–certainly many folks on this listserv buy books.  Perhaps during certain times, like the holidays, or school semester, you buy many books at once, all at the same time.  Rather than doing this through Amazon, Barnes and Noble or some other corporate entity, make your purchases at Woodland Pattern.  Even if it’s a little more expensive, the benefits to doing so are virtually endless.  Where a $200 purchase is a drop in the bucket to a beast like Amazon, to Woodland Pattern it is a really significant transaction.  And, as convenient as shopping online might be at times, Woodland Pattern is a destination.  With real humans, too.  Not only can you get some books, but you can say you’ve been to the best poetry Book Center in the country!
Ultimately, there are many diverse ways in which we can help protect Woodland Pattern and our arts community as a whole.  But, one thing is for certain–We need to protect this house!  Even if some of our politicians decide the arts are not a primary concern for them, we can take an assortment of actions and show just how many of us know arts are a critical value.
BONK! family, We are Woodland Pattern.  BONK! is not safe, Racine is not safe, WE and our values are not safe, if Woodland Pattern is not safe.  So join me and together we will protect this house–this home–of the arts in Wisconsin.
If you have further questions on this, contact me at nick.demske@racinelibrary.info.  In the meantime, let’s strengthen our neighbors to the North and, in turn, strengthen ourselves.  Become a member, record and spread your stories, patronize the Book Center and take part in their incredible programs they put on.
Looking forward to investing with you in something we can really be proud of.
For Woodland Pattern, for BONK!, for The Arts,
Nick Demske

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