Guild Literary Complex



The Guild Literary Complex is a 501c3 nonprofit bringing together the varied voices of Chicago and the world through innovative and integrative programming highlighting the intersections of marginality, the power of community, the impact of arts and activism, with a mission of social justice and literary arts for all. We are your on-going curated literary festival serving Chicago’s 50 wards since 1989.

For the last 30 years, the Guild Literary Complex has been a Chicagobased literary organization presenting and supporting diverse, divergent, and emerging voices through programming that is as dynamic as Chicago itself. Actively working with individuals and organizations from all of Chicago’s many neighborhoods, the Guild seeks to connect seemingly disparate groups and geographies through literature—bringing unexpected writers, programs, and audiences together.

Working in collaboration with the City of Chicago and organizations like the Poetry Foundation, The Museum of Contemporary Art, The Art Institute of Chicago, The Chicago Literary Hall of Fame, The Southeast Asian Center, Brooks Permissions, Third World Press, Sones de Mexico,  Studio Gang Architects, American Writers Museum, International Cities of Refuge Network, About Face Theatre, and many others, their missions and visions contribute significantly to the breadth, depth, and resonance of Guild programs the Guild Literary Complex, each helping to create dynamic programming highlighting our varied and robust literary community speaking from and giving voice to the margins.

Programs, Contests, and Special Events

  • Applied Words: A cross disciplinary, cross genre political conversation between artists, writers, politicians, and educators speaking to and about the ways in which the arts are impacted by the political climate, and how the arts impact are larger
  • Palabra Pura: The Guild’s night of poetry and community, curated by and spotlighting Chicago’s most powerful voices in the bilingual and Latino communities;
  • Sister(hood): An all-city celebration of local and international women writer and advocate voices representing Chicago’s 28 international Sister Cities;
  • Voices of Protest, Chicago City of Refuge: In partnership with the ICORN international cities of refuge, the Guild supports programming to highlight the plight of writers in diaspora due to political pressure and upheaval –we support Chicago becoming an ICORN City of Refuge;
  • Contests: include open-submission writing contests such as the annual Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic Award (GBOMA) and The Leon Forrest Prose Awards for short fiction and non-fiction;
  • Special Events: include events like BrooksDay, the Guild’s annual celebration of renowned poet Gwendolyn Brooks, which brings writers, public officials, and civic leaders to read and perform their favorite Brooks poems.

Guild Complex is partially supported by a CityArts grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, and by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency. Additional support comes from The Chicago Community Trust, The Gaylord & Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, the MacArthur Fund for Arts & Culture at The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation International Connections Fund, Poetry Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and individual supporters.


In 1989, a local, community-based bookstore, Guild Books (once located on Lincoln Avenue) began regularly hosting progressive, stimulating, and eclectic literary events. Soon after, the Guild Complex established itself as an official non-profit organization with poet Michael Warr as its first executive director. For the last 25 years, the Guild Literary Complex has been a pioneer on Chicago’s literary landscape, consistently hosting innovative and diverse events, featuring leading literary names, and welcoming new, emerging voices. The Guild Literary Complex has been acknowledged as “Chicago’s premier literary center” by the Illinois Arts Council and twice selected as a model literary center by the National Endowment for the Arts. Chicago writer Studs Terkel, activist Meridel Le Sueur, and blues legend Willie Dixon were among many famous faces who passed through the doors of Guild Books, and past writers have included some of history’s most influential contemporary authors, including:

Gwendolyn Brooks  | Ana Castillo | Lucille Clifton | Kent Foreman

Eduardo Galeano | Jack Hirschman | Ricardo Gamboa | Angela Jackson

Alex Kotlowitz | Li-Young Lee | Sharon Olds | Michael Ondaatje | Grace Paley

Octavio Paz | Sterling Plumpp | Adrienne Rich | Carolyn Rodgers | Luis Rodriguez

Salman Rushdie | Patricia Smith | Quincy Troupe

and many more.