2011 GBOMA contestants

**PLEASE NOTE: The submission period for 2012’s competition is now closed; the final event will be held Monday, June 18th.**

CLICK HERE to listen to the poems that entrants submitted for the FACEBOOK WILDCARD VOTE.

The Guild Literary Complex is proud to announce its call for poetry submissions for the 19th Annual Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic Award (GBOMA). Guild curators will select semi-finalists from open submissions. Then those poets will perform their work in front of a live audience that will vote the winner of a $500 prize! The audience vote event will be held on Monday, June 18, 2012, 7:00PM, at the Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division, Chicago.

The Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic Award was founded by the noted Chicago poet almost two decades ago. Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000) was born in Topeka, Kansas and lived in Chicago for the rest of her life. She was the author of more than twenty books of poetry and numerous other books including novels. Her many awards and honors include Poet Laureate of Illinois, Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, American Academy of Arts and Letters award, the Frost Medal, a National Endowment for the Arts award, and fellowships from The Academy of American Poets and the Guggenheim Foundation. In honor of her birthday, every June GBOMA showcases emerging performance poets in an exciting, audience-involved competition.

Poets must be 18 years of age or older by the date of the reading, and currently living in Illinois. A submission fee of $5 is required. See below for full submission guidelines and FAQs. (Sorry for all the gory details, but following the instructions carefully is the only way to make sure your submission gets the best consideration.) Good luck!



1.     What to submit

One poem in both print and audio form (No exceptions please – if you send us more than one poem, we won’t consider any. We hate choosing sides.)

  • Poem must be previously unpublished
  • Printed form must be typed in legible 12-pt font
  • Audio form can be performed by you left in a voicemail message to the Guild (call 877-394-5061) OR attached to an email as an MP3. In the recording please start with the title of the poem only (don’t give your name) – don’t worry, we’ll know it’s you because we will match it to your written poem submission.
  • Poem must also be able to be performed by you, the evening of June 19, carefully and clearly, with no props, musical accompaniment, etc. – just you and your voice, in under 4 minutes (No exceptions please; you will be timed. If you go over, we’ll have to cut you off and you won’t be able to advance in the competition. And we hate being the bad guy.) Attendance at this event is mandatory.

The $5 submission fee. Submissions without the submission fee will not be considered. Click the “DONATE” button to pay your entrance fee through PayPal.

You must be 18 years old by June 18th, 2012 (in order to be eligible to receive the cash prize)

2.     Where to submit it

Mail OR email…


Guild Complex
P.O. Box 478880
Chicago, IL 60647-9998

For mailed submissions: please put your full name, street address, email address, telephone number and name of poem on a separate cover sheet. Also, please put whether you would also like to have your audio recording entered anonymously into the Wildcard Vote (see more about that in the FAQs below). None of this identifying info should appear on the poem itself.


To contest@guildcomplex.org

For email submissions: please put “GBOMA” in the subject line, include your full name, street address, email address, telephone number and name of poem in the body of the email, and attach your poem as a Word or PDF document labeled with the title of your poem only. Also, please put whether you would also like to have your audio recording entered anonymously into the Wildcard Vote (see more about that in the FAQs below). None of that info should appear in the poem document itself.

Whether sending your poem by mail or email, don’t forget to send your $5 submission fee via the “DONATE” button.

Please DO NOT send any materials directly to The Chopin Theatre. The Chopin is only our home for that night. Any poems delivered there will not be considered.

3.     When to submit it

No later than Saturday, May 12, 2012, EITHER arrived in our post office box for mailed submissions (not postmarked) OR arrived in our email inbox no later than 5:00pm on Saturday, May 12 (for email submissions). Submissions may not be made in person.

And that’s it! We’ll send you an acknowledgement email to let you know your submission arrived and has met the guidelines. Then we’ll hold the Wildcard vote May 14-May 18, notify semi-finalists by Tuesday, June 5, 2012 and the evening of performances will be Tuesday June 19, 2012.

Again those key dates are:
Saturday, May 12: last chance for your poem to arrive by mail or email
Monday, May 14, 9am – Friday, May 18, 5pm: facebook Wildcard vote
Tuesday, June 5: Notification of semi-finalists
Monday, June 18: Competition at Chopin Theatre 1534 W. Division (intersection of Division, Ashland & Milwaukee), Chicago, IL, 7:00 pm


What if my poem is really good, but it’s more like four-and-a-half minutes long? I can talk really fast…

Trust us: picking a poem that fits comfortably within the time limit makes the best possible evening for your audience, your fellow competitors and you. If you choose a poem that you can perform carefully and clearly in the time allotted, your work will be heard and enjoyed. In GBOMA’s history, poets who read work that’s too long or too fast don’t do well in the competition – the audience is the judge, and they judge on their listening experience.

What if I don’t like performing my poetry? Can someone else do it?

Some poets don’t like to perform. That’s ok. But like a lot of events with the Guild, we want to bring writing to life for our audiences. And we know no one can do that for your poem better than you!

I have a (wedding/job/date/etc.) on June 18th. Can I leave the competition event early/come late?

Sorry, we decide the order of performers that night, so you have to be available for the full event. Besides, you won’t want to miss any of the other excellent poems.

Do I have to memorize my poem?

That’s up to you. But whether you read it or recite it from memory, make sure you know it well enough to perform it in an engaging way. (Looking up and making eye contact goes a long way…) You’ll have warm bodies in the audience, and they want to know there’s a warm body on the stage.

What’s up with requiring a submission fee? I’m not a rich poet.

We understand. But the submission fee helps offset part of the Guild’s costs for the venue and the cash prize so we can keep doing events like this in the future.

Do I have to pay my submission fee by PayPal?

Sorry, yes. At this time our limited staff support makes this the best way to process entries quickly and accurately.

What is the Wildcard Vote?

We like to let the audience get involved before the finals, so instead of our curators choosing all the semifinalists who will perform on the 18th, we’re making it possible for the public to choose one too. Contest entrants with complete application packages can volunteer to be part of the Wildcard Vote as well as the traditional judge vote. Then they will get their submitted recording posted anonymously on the Guild’s facebook page the week of May 14th, and members of the Guild group can vote for their favorite. The poem that receives the most votes will win a spot on the ballot and perform on the 19th! (Anyone can join the Guild’s facebook group, so be sure to tell your friends about your poem and the Guild so they can vote!) If the Wildcard winner happens to have received a top vote from Guild curators as well, we will give the Wildcard slot to the entrant with the next-highest number of facebook votes.

What is GBOMA? Is it contagious?

No, it’s just an acronym. And yes, it’s a contagious evening of fun, provocative, poetry excitement.

Any more questions? Email contest@guildcomplex.org.

Thanks and good luck!


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