UW–Madison Libraries acquire archive of Milwaukee’s Woodland Pattern Book Center

November 7, 2013

An important segment of three decades of recent American literary history has been acquired by the UW–Madison Libraries. The archive documents the varied activities of Woodland Pattern Book Center over its first thirty-plus years, and will be cataloged, preserved, and made available to researchers in the Department of Special Collections in Memorial Library. The archive contains correspondence with writers and artists, manuscripts, fine press broadsides, audio recordings of events and readings, scrapbooks and albums, posters, press releases and newsletters, business records, grant proposals, and more. According to Vice Provost for Libraries Ed Van Gemert, “The Woodland Pattern archive acquisition is a fine example of the ‘Wisconsin Idea’ in action. The role of acquiring, preserving and making available this unique and invaluable piece of Wisconsin literary and cultural history for present and future researchers is central to the mission of the UW–Madison Libraries.”

Founded in 1979 by Karl Gartung, Anne Kingsbury, and Karl Young, Woodland Pattern Book Center, a non-profit arts organization in Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood, enjoys a national reputation. Woodland Pattern combines a bookstore specializing in poetry with literary readings, concerts, performances, screenings, exhibits, conferences, and partnerships with fine press printers and other arts and educational institutions. Kingsbury explains that Woodland Pattern “promotes a lifetime practice of reading and writing” by encouraging “the discovery, cultivation and preservation of contemporary literature – where books, performance art, sound works, and visual art all live together.”

The name Woodland Pattern comes from a passage in Paul Metcalf’s 1976 epic Apalache: “South of Lake Superior, a culture center, the Woodland Pattern, with poetry but without agriculture….” Metcalf gave the first Woodland Pattern poetry reading in 1979. The correspondence and recordings in the collection represent a who’s who of contemporary writers, artists, and performers. The audio archives are of particular interest as Charles Bernstein, co-director of the PennSound project at the University of Pennsylvania attests:  “The Woodland Pattern audio recordings will be a substantial addition to the archive of postwar American poetry: this is a major acquisition.”

“The Libraries are very excited about this singular opportunity to preserve unique primary source materials for research, teaching, and scholarship,” notes Susan Barribeau, English Language Humanities Librarian at UW–Madison. “This collection provides an extraordinary window into recent American poetry, publishing, and performance.” Professor Lynn Keller, Martha Meier Renk-Bascom Professor of Poetry of UW-Madison says, “What a boost for contemporary poetry studies at this university!” And from Professor Jesse Lee Kercheval, Sally Mead Hands Professor of English at UW-Madison:  “I am delighted about the archives from Woodland Pattern coming to UW!”

The Woodland Pattern archive complements other collections in the Department of Special Collections, including the extensive and nationally known Little Magazines Collection and holdings of the works of fine presses in Wisconsin and elsewhere. “Teaching in the humanities and arts on campus draws more and more on rare and unpublished materials,” notes Robin Rider, Curator of Special Collections, “and we expect faculty and students in literary studies and performance to engage actively with the Woodland Pattern collection.” The Libraries’ strong collection of contemporary artists’ books (in Kohler Art Library) and the Silver Buckle Press (part of Memorial Library) likewise relate to the activities and archive of Woodland Pattern.

An exhibit in Special Collections, “Woodland Pattern Broadsides: Thirty Years of Poets Reading,” celebrates this acquisition and showcases an important part of the Woodland Pattern Book Center archive. On display through February 7, 2014, in 976 Memorial Library, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 728 State Street.

For more information contact:

Susan Barribeau at sbarribeau@library.wisc.edu or (608) 262-9585

Robin Rider at rrider@library.wisc.edu or (608) 262-2809