Bianca Lisa Araujo occasionally composes poetry, crediting anything she writes to the strong women and men in her life who act as muses. Her Latina experience has been largely shaped through the scope of a proud and talented family. Her poems, The Limes in my Grandfather’s Garden and The Fusion of Fault Lines have earned her a spot as a twice semifinalist, once finalist, in two of the Guild Literary Complex’s Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic Awards. She spends her days as a suburban elementary schoolteacher, surrounded by future engineers, poet laureates, and rock stars (according to them).

Albert DeGenova is an award-winning poet, publisher, and teacher. He is the author of three books of poetry and three chapbooks; he has also been published in numerous journals and anthologies. DeGenova is the founder and co-editor of After Hours magazine, a journal of Chicago writing and art, which launched in June of 2000. He received his MFA from Spalding University in Louisville and leads several writing workshops throughout the year at WriteOn Door County and an annual writing week at The Clearing Folk School in Ellison Bay, WI. He hosts the monthly Traveling Mollys reading series (Oak Park, IL) which is now in its 20th year. DeGenova is also a blues saxophonist and one-time contributing editor to Down Beat magazine  

Samina Hadi-Tabassum is an associate professor at the Erikson Institute in Chicago. Her first book of poems, Muslim Melancholia (2017), was published by Red Mountain Press. She has published poems in East Lit Journal, Soul-Lit, Journal of Postcolonial Literature, Papercuts, The Waggle, Indian Review, Classical Poets, Mosaic, Main Street Rag and These Fragile Lilacs. Her poems were performed on stage as a part of the Kundiman Foundation and Emotive Fruition event focusing on Asian American poetry.

As a queer black girl from 79th, Kennedy Harris is a freeforming artist whose work is centered around making poetry accessible to the hood. She uses her work, not to speak for, but to speak with mediocre black girls who have been silenced. Born in chicago, she was deemed a 2018 SouthSide Youth Poetry Ambassador with Theaster Gates Rebuild foundation. Kennedy is a 2017 Louder Than a Bomb Team and Indy Finalist, 2018 Louder Than a Bomb Champ, Brave New Voices Semi-Finalist, and a Young Chicago Authors Bombsquad apprentice. Kennedy has performed on many stages, including The Auditorium Theater, Metro Theater, and Reva and David Logan center for the arts. Patricia Frazier, Ntozake Shange, Britteney Black Rose Kapri, and Emon Lauren are a part of the large group of bad bitches who are continuously inspiring Kennedy to be a “badder” bitch. Through poetry, Kennedy’s goal is to get more free.

Nile Lansana is a poet from the South Side of Chicago. He currently attends the University of Wisconsin - Madison through the First Wave Scholarship. His work has been published in The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop, Resisting Arrest: Poems to Stretch the Sky, The End Of Chiraq: A Literary Mixtape, & elsewhere. He is a founding member of Rebirth Poetry Ensemble, who won Louder Than A Bomb 2014 & 2016, made Brave New Voices Grand Slam Finals in 2016, & co-coached the elementary school ensemble, Reborn, to two 1/2 Pint Poetics titles in the last three years.

Maya Marshall “Lavender Menace Considers Adoption” Maya Marshall is a writer, editor, and poet. She is co-founder of underbellymag.com. She holds fellowships from Cave Canem, Callaloo, and the Squaw Valley Community of Writers. Her chapbook Secondhand was published by Dancing Girl Press in 2016. Marshall earned her MFA from the University of South Carolina, and she currently serves as a senior editor for [PANK].

Isaiah Mākar (Founder of Impact Mākars), found his voice in the Spoken Word Club at Oak Park & River Forest High School. Upon joining the OPRF Spoken Word Club, one of the most highly acclaimed youth poetry clubs in the country, Isaiah overcame his fear of public speaking and social anxiety. After graduating with his degree in Communication from the University of Illinois at Chicago, Isaiah used his research on how poetry can be used in the classroom to enhance and sustain student engagement, which won the “Outstanding Oral Presentation” award at the Illinois Summer Research Symposium, to design the Mākar Method. The Mākar Method is a cross-disciplinary learning model focusing on applying spoken word poetry skills to practice six communication styles that are transferable beyond a stage and a page to foster the learning and development of educators and employees.

Cynthia Nwakudu is originally from Nigeria and loves reading stories that touch the heart and writes stories that do the same. She spends her free time teaching adult English learners and writing her memoir. She lives in Westmont, Illinois with her husband.

Featured in The Guardian, Chicago Tribune, HBO's Def Poetry Jam and on international television and radio, Peabody Award-winning poet Nikki Patin has been writing, performing and educating for almost 15 years. She has taught hundreds of workshops on spoken word, body image and interpersonal violence. in 2014, she made history when she addressed the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland on behalf of Black women survivors of sexual violence in the U.S. Nikki Patin holds an MFA in Creative Non-Fiction from the University of Southern Maine. Recently, she was honored with a 3Arts Make A Wave award.

Sharon L. Powell is an artist, consultant, and educator. An adjunct faculty member in the Department of Humanities, History, and Social Sciences at Columbia College Chicago, Powell has an MA in Religious Studies from Chicago Theological Seminary. She engages audiences in alternative conversations about the body, sexuality, and health. As a Chicago performance poet working solo and with ensembles, her art has been showcased at numerous local venues over the years, including DuSable Museum, the Green Mill, and Printers Row Book Fair.

Heather ‘Byrd’ Roberts was born and raised on the Southside of Chicago. She received her Bachelors in Special Studies in Performance Art from Cornell College and received a Masters in Organizational Leadership from St. Ambrose University. ​Byrd returned to Chicago and completed her Spoken Word Pedagogy Certificate program at Concordia University in 2015. Byrd's work focuses on the intersectionality between form and freedom - being black and a woman. A quilt stitched together shining a light on the best and worst parts of her experiences. Byrd’s poems are in lineage of Lucille Clifton, Ntozake Shange, and Gwendolyn Brooks. Her stories span from childhood epiphanies to unexpected lessons and celebrations. Each story tastes like ripe mangoes, cayenne pepper, or a eclectic combination of the two.​ Her favorite words are bubble and balloon. Byrd is currently the Senior Education Programs Manager at Young Chicago Authors, Home of Louder Than A Bomb. Twitter: @BluByrdsWorld

Ava Serra grew up fantasizing about worlds and adventures outside life in suburban Michigan. Chicago provided ample opportunity for her imagination and development when she was seventeen. It was here she discovered her passion for LGBT+ and POC representation. Thanks to her first poetry professor and friend, she began to channel her experiences into this literary form, often using her lens as a queer, mixed race woman to examine and question her surroundings. Since stepping into poetry, poets such as Marty McConnell, Franny Choi, Mary Oliver, Audre Lorde, and C. Russell Price have served as tremendous inspiration. Oftentimes, she continues to search for new, marvelous voices in the shelves of Women and Children's First and hopes to contribute her own works someday.

Marjorie L. Skelly's cross-genre book, The Unpublished Poet: On Not Giving Up on Your Dream, was endorsed by former Indiana Poet Laureate Norbert Krapf and published by In Extenso Press. It consists of essays, short stories, and poems. She has won first place awards from Poets and Patrons, the Jo-Anne Hirshfield Poetry Memorial Contest, and the Palatine Public Library. She has twice reached finalist status for the Word Works Washington Prize for a poetry book, and twice reached semi-finalist status in the Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mike Poetry Contest in Chicago.Marjorie has taught writing at several universities, poetry writing (revision) at Harold Washington Library, and poetry and fiction writing at Eisenhower Library, all in the Chicago-land area. Most recently she taught a class on the history of Handel’s Messiah at both Eisenhower and Highland Park Libraries.

Jimmie Smith Jr. was born in Detroit, Michigan. He has two Bachelor of Arts degrees (in Journalism and in English) from Michigan State University. He also holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Chicago State University, and he has lived in Chicago for nine years. He has attended the Hurston/Wright Writers' workshop and the Bread Loaf Writing workshop. He is a freelance sports announcer who loves poetry and sports simultaneously.

Myron Stokes has been writing poetry for fifteen years. He is a member of the Illinois State Poetry Society, Poets and Patrons, the Oak Park Writers Group and the National Federation State Poetry Society. His work is published in Margie, International Journal of American Poetry, the Ellen LaForge Poetry Prize, and Encore. He won first place in the 2012 Margaret Reid Poetry Contest for Traditional Verse and received honorable mentions for several poems as well as short stories. He is a nine year USAF veteran and currently works as a psychotherapist treating veterans that have Post Traumatic Disorder. He is originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin and the proud father of a lovely 22 year old daughter.

Erin Sweeney graduated DePaul University with a Master's in Writing and Publishing. She was well known on the Chicago slam scene in the 90s as a member of Young Chicago Authors. She currently lives in Skokie, IL.

My name is Savastiana Valle, I am nineteen years old and this year has been a whirlwind. I got very ill in February of 2018 and I am still recovering. Poetry was my only comfort through months of tests and hospitals. I wrote every day as much as I could. It was the only way for me to feel normal again. I physically could not do much, and slowly typing away on my computer became some amazing therapy. I am thankful for all poetry has done for me and I just hope to do my words some justice. Thank you all for the opportunity!

With a background in music journalism, copy editing, and writing overall, Marlena Wadley is switching lanes and stepping into the film industry. Marlena has won the Sarah Mook National writing award, competed and won gold place in NAACP’s Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics (ACT-SO) competition, and she will be published in the second Golden Shovel Anthology dedicated to Gwendolyn Brooks. Marlena has worked under music journalist Tara Mahadevan, and has interned with Young Chicago Authors. Through them she is published on their blog, TheseDays, and Fake Shore Drive. Currently she is a student studying Communications at UIC and hopes to go to Grad school for Film.

Erin Watson is a Southern person living in Chicago. She was a finalist for the 2014 Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic Award and one of New City's best emerging poets in Chicago in 2014. She works in nonprofits and volunteers with Chicago Books to Women in Prison when she is not reading books, riding bikes, or petting her perfect dog. Twitter: @ErinW

Arne Weingart lives in Chicago with his wife Karen. He is the principal of a graphic design firm specializing in identity and wayfinding. He has been awarded residencies at the Atlantic Center for the Arts, Vermont Studio Center and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and has been a featured panelist/reader at the Southern Festival of Books. His work has been widely published in journals and has also been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. His first book, “Levitation for Agnostics,” was the winner of the 2014 New American Press Poetry Prize and was released in 2016.

Alternates

Mary DeYoe is a writer and arts administrator from Chicago, IL. Her poems and articles have appeared in INSIGHT Magazine, The Honeyland Review, Newcity, Chicago Gallery News, The SEEN. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing, Poetry from Vanderbilt University where she ​was the recipient of the Academy of American Poets Prize. Currently, she is the Director of Development & External Relations at the Chicago Artists Coalition.

Natasha Estevez currently resides in Chicago. Originally from Harlem, NY, she is a 22 year old Afro-Latina creative writer and spoken word artist continuing her art practice after having graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago Creative Writing program in May of 2018.

Sheila Yarbough I love the sound and the look of words. I spend most of my days as an administrator and a parent. I write occasionally.