Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic Awards


Photo by Eric Shropshire Photography 

The Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic Awards is an annual event and is ALWAYS a crowd pleaser. Past winners including the esteemed poets Sename Amagashie, Lucy Anderton, Tara Betts, C.C. Carter, Stephanie Gentry-Fernandez, Marian Hayes, Tricia Hersey, Tyehimba Jess, Langston Kerman, Toni Asante Lightfoot, Nate Marshall, Sage Morgan-Hubbard, Stephanie Rose Perez, Tristan Silverman, Dan “Sully” Sullivan, Mark Turcotte, Deepak Unnikrishnan, Javon Smith, Nicole Bond, and last year’s winner Vann Harris.

Check out the fill 2017 Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic Awards through CAN TV.

 About the Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic Awards:

Pulitzer Prize winning Chicago poet Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000) founded the Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic Award twenty-two years ago. Brooks was born in Topeka, Kansas and lived in Chicago for the rest of her life. She was the author of more than twenty volumes of poetry and numerous other books. 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, a Pulitzer Prize, the Frost Medal, a National Endowment for the Arts award, and fellowships from The Academy of American Poets and the Guggenheim Foundation. 2018 will be the 25th Annual Gwendolyn Mic Awards.  Check back here for further details!

Complete guidelines for qualifying submissions are below.

The Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic Award competition is open to Illinois residents aged 18 and older.

GBOMA Submission Guidelines:

  • Participant must be 18 years of age or older by the last day of the submission period.
  • Participant must currently live in Illinois.
  • Submit one original poem. No exceptions.
  • Poem must be previously unpublished.
  • When performed, the poem cannot exceed three (3) minutes.
  • Poem must be submitted in print (via email or mail) in a legible 12-point font.
  • A submission fee of $5 is required. Payment is to be made via PayPal. Visit, click on the “donate” button, and include “GBOMA fee” in the memo field. Submissions without a fee will not be considered. (Your submission fee includes a non-transferable ticket to GBOMA live. HINT: If you plan to attend the event, the submission fee is less than the ticket price at the door—so submit a poem for a chance to win $500!)
  • Poets must be available to perform their poem at the live GBOMA event. If selected as a competing semi-finalist, attendance at the event is mandatory. You will not be considered for the prize if you are not able to perform at the event.
  • Contestants will not be able to use props or music or any accompaniment outside of their voice or body during the performance of poems at the competition.
  • Incomplete applications or applications that do not follow these guidelines will not be considered.
  • Previous winners are not eligible, but previous applicants and semi-finalists are encouraged to re-submit.
  • Deadline to submit for 2018 TBA. Mailed applications must be received by the last date of the submission period – this is not a postmark deadline. Emailed applications must be received by 5:00 p.m. CST received by the last date of the submission period. Submissions cannot be made in person.

To submit your poem by email (preferred method):

Send submissions to and put “GBOMA submission” in the subject line. In the body of the email, include your full name, street address, email address, telephone number and name of poem. Attach your poem as a Word document or PDF. The poem should have no identifying information except for the title of the poem.

Once your submission is emailed, please go to, click on the “donate” button, and submit your $5 submission fee via PayPal.

To submit your poem by mail:

Send your poem with a separate cover sheet that includes your full name, street address, email address, telephone number and name of poem. The poem should have none of this identifying information except for the title of the poem. Mail to:

Guild Literary Complex | 641 West Lake Street, Suite 200 | Chicago, IL 60661
Attn: Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic Award

Once your submission is mailed, please go to, click on the “donate” button, and submit your $5 submission fee via PayPal.

DO NOT send materials to the American Writers Museum. Any poems delivered there will not be considered.


We’ll send you an acknowledgement email to let you know your submission arrived and has met the guidelines. Semi-finalists will be notified by September 15, 2017.

If you have questions, please read the FAQs below. If you do not find the answer you need, write to us at



What if my poem is really good, but it’s more like three-and-a-half minutes long?

Picking a poem that fits comfortably within the time limit makes the best possible evening for your audience, your fellow competitors and you. The three-minute time limit will be strictly enforced. Choose a poem that you can perform carefully and clearly in the time allotted, and your work will be heard and enjoyed – and not cut short or rushed.

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 September 27th. Can I leave the competition early/come late?

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.

If chosen as a semi-finalist, 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.

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 event, PLUS your submission fee allows you entrance into the event whether you are selected as a semi-finalist or not.

Do I have to pay my submission fee by PayPal?

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