Behold! The semifinalists.
Behold! 2014 Semifinalists.

To put it short: We are overwhelmed by last night’s Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic Award & Reading. Chicagoist offered up their thoughts: “If you attend one poetry reading a year, it might as well be the Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic Award.”

First, the emcee: Toni Asante Lightfoot never ceases to amaze us. Her ability to speak beautifully about the Guild Literary Complex, her understanding of the triumphs and challenges of today’s emerging writers, and, generally, how ridiculously hilarious she is in front of that mic—well, she is a shining example of the community of writers that the Guild is so honored to work with.

Second, Marian Hayes: Her generous contribution of her handmade quilt, made in honor of Gwendolyn Brooks, cannot go unnoticed. She has contributed in so many ways to our mission. She embodies the generosity and spirit of Mrs. Brooks herself.

Third, Aurora Performance Group and Nora Brooks Blakely: Nora, Gwendolyn’s daughter, amassed a group of talented singers who blew us away last night with their harmonies. A fine tribute to Mrs. Brooks, indeed. And Nora, who donated the $500 prize in memory of her mother, continues the legacy of the Open Mic Award, enabling new writers to continue making and performing the unbelievable poetry that we heard last night.


To our 20 semifinalists: WOW. You all brought your best. We couldn’t be more honored by your submissions, performances, bravery, and talent. We thank you all.

After a night of celebration, the standing room-only audience of 215 fans narrowed the 20 to five finalists. That is, a breathtaking tie in the fourth round sharpened the edges in the room. Intensity. Those five finalists were Kelly Reuter Raymundo, Rachel Lena Slotnik, Mojdeh Stoakley, Deepak Unnikrishnan, and Erin Watson. 

And our 2014 winner: Deepak Unnikrishnan, with his poem, Eduardo.

Congratulations to Deepak, the other four finalists who had us…well, feeling ALL of the feelings, and to all who attended, participated, volunteered, and sent us to bed filled with your lively spirit.