Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic Awards

GBOMA 2020

The Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic Awards (GBOMA) is an annual poetry competition founded by Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000) and open to all Illinois residents over the age of 18. The top contestants selected by guest judges from the poetry community are invited to perform their original poems at the live finals event, where the audience favorite is awarded the $500 prize.

Pulitzer Prize winning Chicago poet Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000) founded the Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic Award twenty-five 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.



Margot McMahon, Gwendolyn Brooks: The Oracle of Bronzeville (2018), Brooks Park, Chicago

27th Annual Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic Awards


Thank you for your interest in the 27th Annual Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic Awards!

The deadline to submit is 11:59PM CST on Friday, August 7th, 2020. Late submissions will NOT be accepted. 

Submit your poem using our Wufoo submission form.


  •     Participants must be 18 years of age or older by the last day of the submission period.
  •     Participants must be residents of Illinois.
  •     Submit one (1) original poem. No exceptions.
  •     Poem must be previously unpublished.
  •     When performed, the poem cannot exceed three (3) minutes.
  •     Poem must be submitted as a written .DOC, .DOCX, or .PDF file in a legible 12-point font.

Semi-finalists will read their poem via video recording to compete for the $500 prize.

A submission fee of $8 is required, payable as part of the submission process. Submissions without a fee will not be considered. 

The online form will confirm that your poem and payment have been submitted. You may want to save that confirmation page for your records. 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.

Semi-finalists will be notified by email by Friday, September 4th, 2020. If selected as a competing semi-finalist, a video performance submission is mandatory. You will not be considered for the prize if you are unable to provide a video. Details about virtual performances will be provided within the notification to semi-finalists.

Semi-finalists must submit their video performance by September 14, 2020.

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?

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 we know no one can do that for your poem better than you! We are not looking for a certain style, just your voice speaking your words.

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 with confidence and clarity in a way which will satisfy your own expectations.

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 contest. 

Do I have to pay my submission fee online?

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

2019 GBOMA winner: Sharon Powell

Sharon Powell is a Chicago poet and performance artist working solo and with ensembles. Her work has been showcased and adapted for stage at numerous local venues including Guild Complex, the Green Mill Lounge, the Park West, the Metro, the Printers Row Book Fair, and DuSable Museum. Powell has also performed in Atlanta, Milwaukee, Amherst, Boston, and Miami as well as been published in Catalyst and Mosaic magazines.

Past GBOMA winners include the esteemed poets Sename Amagashie, Lucy Anderton, Tara Betts, Lisa Buscani, 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, Vann Harris, and last year’s winner, Nile Lansana.

For more on the 25th Annual Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic Awards in 2018, click here.

Or watch the entire 2018 25th anniversary finals event via CAN TV here!

Or watch the 2017 awards via CAN TV here!