Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic Awards

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


The list of finalists for GBOMA 2019 can be found here!




Tickets are now on sale for:
The GBOMA Finals

The Promontory
5311 S. Lake Park Ave. West, Chicago

Tuesday, September 17th, 2019

$10, all ages
Doors: 6:30
Show: 7:30



Buy your tickets HERE
Dinner reservations before or after can be made HERE.



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!


Submission deadline EXTENDED: Monday, August 12th SATURDAY AUGUST 17TH 2019
$10 submission fee, to be paid as part of the submission process (includes ticket to live finals on September 17th)

Complete guidelines for qualifying GBOMA submissions are below:

  • Participant must be 18 years of age or older by the last day of the submission period.
  • Participant must be a resident 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 .DOC, .DOCX, or .PDF file in a legible 12-point font.
  • A submission fee of $10 is required, payable as part of the submission process. Submissions without a fee will not be considered. (Submission fee also covers your non-transferable ticket to the live GBOMA finals event, where you could win $500, or at least help decide who does!)
  • 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 attend and 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 2019 is NOW 11:59PM CST on Saturday, August 17th, 2019. Late submissions will NOT be accepted.

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

If you are unable to submit your poem and payment through the online forms, please email well in advance of the deadline to make alternate arrangements, we will do our best to accommodate your needs, but no extensions will be granted.

Semi-finalists will be notified by email by Wednesday, September 4th, 2019, and will then perform their 3-minute poem in the live semi-finals at The Promontory on September 17 2019.

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! We are not looking for a certain style, just your voice speaking your words.

I have a wedding/job/date/etc. on the date of event.. 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 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 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 online?

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