Date of Award

May 2022

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Jennifer Jordan

Committee Members

Jennifer Jordan, Aneesh Aneesh, Ingrid Jordt, Marcus Britton


Ethnography, Milwaukee, Poetry, Qualitative analysis, Sociology, Sociology of literature


Poetry has historically been an important component of cities’ culture, urban life, and history. There is a mutual influence of poetry and the city; while the city and the way its history unfolds shape poetic production patterns and poets’ narratives, it is capable of illuminating diverse social and urban phenomena and shape diverse social groups’ cultural practices and urban experience. While scholars from social science and humanistic disciplines have investigated the relationship between poetry and the city by looking at how cities are represented poetically and how cities shape the production, distribution, and consumption of poetry, I turn to a unique set of sources to understand how poets interact with and represent the city across a range of formats and time periods, from the Civil Rights era to the contemporary Covid-19 pandemic. I use poetry as a lens through which to see how the city gives voice to a multitude of individuals, and provides a rich portrait of the city and its narrators, as well as a detailed understanding of how these representations vary or remain constant across time and formats. Mindful of the capability of the study of the poetry field and its actors to unveil important aspects of social and urban life, I use the case of the Milwaukee poetry scene looking at three specific formats: newspaper, spoken word, and Instagram poetry. I draw on primary and secondary data sources employing diverse ethnographic techniques. This research builds upon literature on cultural production and the city, the literary field, literary geography, and the relationship between cultural production/consumption and social inequalities.