CHICAGO, August 2020—Young poets from across Illinois announced as winners of the 2020 Gwendolyn Brooks Youth Poetry Awards, an annual competition open to all Illinois poets in grades K–12. The winners were selected from a pool of 264 submissions representing 76 Illinois schools.
Every winner of this award created by Gwendolyn Brooks, receives a monetary prize, a volume of poetry by Gwendolyn Brooks, and the opportunity to share their poems as part of the online award ceremony on Saturday, August 22. Emily Hooper Lansana, director of community arts at the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts at the University of Chicago will host the award ceremony.
Remembering Illinois’s Longest-Reigning Poet Laureate
Gwendolyn Brooks began the Youth Poetry Awards in 1969 during her tenure as the poet laureate of Illinois, which lasted until her passing in 2000. Brooks, the first Black person to win a Pulitzer Prize, championed the work of young poets, speaking in schools, acting as a mentor, sending personal correspondence, and organizing the awards for three decades. This year’s ceremony will be the first since Illinois reignited its search for a new state laureate.
The Poetry Foundation and Illinois Humanities partnered with Our Miss Brooks 100 in 2017 to revive the awards to commemorate Brooks’s centennial. In the four years since the revival of the awards, over 1,000 entries have been submitted to the competition, which was renamed in honor of the woman who started and maintained the program for 30 years.
“It’s exciting to recognize this year’s winners of the Gwendolyn Brooks Youth Poetry Awards. So many people in Illinois remember a personal moment when Ms. Brooks encouraged them to write and share their art. We are proud to continue her work on these awards and help sustain her legacy,” said Ydalmi Noriega, Poetry Foundation community and foundation relations director. “Today we celebrate a new generation of students who write and recite their poems as a way of documenting, examining, and honoring their lives and communities. I’m grateful for these young poets.”
Honoring Young Poets Virtually
The Gwendolyn Brooks Youth Poetry Awards are open to all young people in Illinois, from Kindergarten through 12th Grade. Students can be in school—public, private, and home—or other institutions. Each student may submit one original poem; students may submit their poems on their own, or a parent or teacher may submit on their behalf.
“This year, in which so many families and school communities are facing profound challenges, we are particularly grateful to the many young people who—with support of dedicated teachers and parents —chose to participate in this statewide tradition, and share something about their lives and experiences,” said Gabrielle Lyon, executive director of Illinois Humanities. “The writers who submitted poems to the 2020 Gwendolyn Brooks Youth Poetry Awards are members of a powerful community of Illinois writers of all ages. These young poets’ words can help us find our purpose and sense of possibility in the face of today’s hardships. These writers are the forerunners of the future and, in their words, we can find, perhaps, what is most important to pay attention to in our shared present.”
The awards ceremony will be adapted this year to an online program with support from cosponsor the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts at the University of Chicago so that students can safely share their work and celebrate with their loved ones. Winners are invited to send in videos of themselves reading their work to Illinois Humanities.
The 2020 Gwendolyn Brooks Youth Poetry Award Winners are:
“Mama” by Hannah Ludlam – Sor Juana Elementary School, Chicago, Illinois
“You With Me?” by Asan Truss-Miller – Village Leadership Academy, Chicago, Illinois
Honorable Mention: “Two Dollars” by Data Hunting – The Children’s School, Oak Park, Illinois
“Ducklings” by Charlotte Chung – Chicago Free School, Chicago, Illinois
“On the Rug” by Catherine Stanislawski – Sor Juana Elementary School, Chicago, Illinois
“The Green Room” by Elise Brand – Francis W. Parker School, Chicago, Illinois
“The Water’s Daughter” by Holly Murphy – The Children’s School, Oak Park, Illinois
“The Ice Rink” by Luke Hong – Avery Coonley School, Downers Grove, Illinois
“Frenemy” by Keya Dhungana – Lyman A. Budlong Elementary School, Chicago, Illinois
“Winter Stuff” by Ava Rucker – Lyman A. Budlong Elementary School, Chicago, Illinois
“Wait and Wish” by Daniel Hyde – Lake Forest Country Day School, Lake Forest, Illinois
“Imagination” by Tal Margot Neiman – University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, Chicago, Illinois
“Linear Dodge in Green Leaves” by Luke Sindt – The Children’s School, Oak Park, Illinois
“Word of Light” by Megan Pham – Fairview South Elementary School, Skokie, Illinois
“One of Those Days” by Athena Gottlieb – Midwest Academy for Gifted Education, Chicago, Illinois
“The Ganges” by Karlina Tolksdorf – Fairview South Elementary School, Skokie, Illinois
“I Remember India” by Joaquin Lannoye – Fairview South Elementary School, Skokie, Illinois
“I was told to write a poem” by Liana Smith – The Children’s School, Oak Park, Illinois
“I Remember” by Daniela Kasalo – Fairview South Elementary School, Skokie, Illinois
“We Shall Overcome” by Vedansh Wadhwani – Fairview South Elementary School, Skokie, Illinois
“My Grandfather’s Broken Camera” by Noa Stern Frede – The Ancona School, Chicago, Illinois
“I am made of mess” by Zoe Harris – The Ancona School, Chicago, Illinois
“Wind” by Liron Helmer – Midwest Academy for Gifted Education, Chicago, Illinois
“Writing to Reality” by Natasha Stoper Freidman – The Ancona School, Chicago, Illinois
“Mixed People Poem” by Katerina Isabella Catala Krysan – Montessori Academy of Chicago, Cicago, Illinois
“2020” by Sophia Memon – The Ancona School, Chicago, Illinois
“Girl” by Eleanor Ross – Alcott College Prep, Chicago, Illinois
“Pandora’s Box” by Anaitzel Franco – The Latin School of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
“Paper Room” by Jolin Li – Walter Payton College Preparatory High School, Chicago, Illinois
“Climbing Trees” by Nico Crabtree – The Chicago High School for the Arts, Chicago, Illinois
“you don’t need a body to bury something” by Annie Wu – Walter Payton College Preparatory High School, Chicago, Illinois
“Boys With Missing Flowers: Endangered and Growing” by Kamari Copeland– Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory Academy High School, Chicago, Illinois
“My Dad” by Kaleena Vose – Oswego East High School, Oswego, Illinois
“Living With Purpose” by Holly Wood – Crystal Lake Central High School, Crystal Lake, Illinois
“How I Use My ‘Black Privilege’” by Daysha Straight – Walter Payton College Preparatory High School, Chicago, Illinois
“The Oreo LP” by Allen White – Oak Park and River Forest High School, Oak Park, Illinois
“My Name Is Madison and Yours Probably Is Too” by Madison Sniegowski – Oswego East High School, Oswego, Illinois
“On Etching Your Legacy” by Aanika Pfister – Lane Tech College Prep High School, Chicago, Illinois
“Fears in exile” by Sonam Yangzom Rikha – Walter Payton College Preparatory High School, Chicago, Illinois
“Bastards” by Jasmine Connolly – Dixon High School, Dixon, Illinois
“Or Don’t” by Aimee R. – Nancy B. Jefferson Alternative High School, Chicago, Illinois
About Illinois Humanities
Illinois Humanities activates the humanities through free public programs, grants, and educational opportunities that foster reflection, spark conversation, build community, and strengthen civic engagement. Illinois Humanities is a nonprofit organization and the state’s affiliate for the National Endowment for the Humanities. Learn more at ilhumanities.org and on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn @ILHumanities.
About the Poetry Foundation
The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine, is an independent literary organization committed to a vigorous presence for poetry in American culture. It exists to discover and celebrate the best poetry and to place it before the largest possible audience. The Poetry Foundation seeks to be a leader in shaping a receptive climate for poetry by developing new audiences, creating new avenues for delivery, and encouraging new kinds of poetry through innovative literary prizes and programs. Follow the Poetry Foundation and Poetry on Facebook at facebook.com/poetryfoundation, Twitter @PoetryFound and Instagram @PoetryFoundation.