Gwendolyn Brooks Youth Poetry Awards
Illinois poets and
the enduring legacy
of Gwendolyn Brooks
Welcome – and thank you for celebrating the power of poetry with Illinois Humanities. The Gwendolyn Brooks Youth Poetry Awards honor the legacy of Illinois’ own Gwendolyn Brooks: renowned poet, author, and the first Black Pulitzer Prize winner. Each and every one of the young poets who take part in this competition are a part of that legacy. Brooks summed up the contest best in a note in 1977: “All the children who entered the contest are winners… They worked hard. They created. And that is what is important.”
This year’s competition is now open! Click the “submit your poem” button below for instructions to submit your poem. Entries must be received by Friday, May 5, 2023 at 11:59 p.m.
The Gwendolyn Brooks Youth Poetry awards are produced in partnership with Brooks Permissions, the Poetry Foundation, and the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts.
Submit Your Poem
Submission guidelines and instructions:
- The contest is open to young people currently in kindergarten through 12th grade across the state of Illinois. Participating young people can be affiliated with any school (public, private, home, etc.) or other institution.
- Youth can only submit ONE poem and the poem must be written by only ONE author (sorry, we do not accept jointly or co-written poems for this contest).
- All entries must be the original work of the young person submitting the poem.
- Poems cannot exceed 25 lines for poems submitted by young people in grades K-5 and cannot exceed 50 lines for poems submitted by young people in grades 6-12. Poems containing visual elements are allowed, if all images/visuals are original to the poet.
- Please only submit poems that were written between September 1, 2022 – May 5, 2023, since poems are judged based on grade level.
- Poets can submit their poem on their own or the poem can be submitted by a parent, guardian, or teacher using this form.
- When submitting a poem, please only enter your name on the entry form and do not include your name or identifying information on the poem itself, since the judging is anonymous.
- Contest winners will be notified in early August 2023.
- Winning poets will be honored at an awards ceremony on Saturday, September 9, 2023.
Read our Submission FAQ
Illinois Humanities has partnered with several organizations to host workshops for young K-12 poets to hone their craft and creativity. Sign up for our newsletter to hear about more upcoming events.
Celebrating Gwendolyn Brooks: A Workshop for Young Poets
Students in grades 5-8, join us for a poetry workshop led by Janice N. Harrington. Participants will examine materials that belonged to Gwendolyn Brooks (including a spice box filled with keys!) and write poetry using her words and their own imaginations. Food and drinks will be provided. RSVP is required.
Thursday, March 30, 2023, 3:30 – 5:30 p.m.
Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center | 202 S Broadway Ave Ste 203 Urbana, IL
Making Sense/Making Nonsense: Writing Original Sonnets
Students in grades 8-12,join us for a poetry workshop led by Lucy Biederman. Participants will explore sonnets by Gwendolyn Brooks, Bernadette Mayer, and Dawn Lundy Martin and talk about how sonnets are made, as well as devote time to writing, sharing, and revising. This workshop is for anyone who likes to write, be creative, express themself, and explore what language can do. Food and drinks will be provided. RSVP is required.
Tuesday, April 11, 2023, 4:00 – 6:00 p.m.
King Branch, Chicago Public Library | 3436 S King Dr Chicago, IL
Brooks, Jenkins and Woods: Chicago and Creative Story Telling
Students in grades 9-12, join us for a poetry workshop led by C. Lofty Bolling. Writers will explore the work of local Chicago legends Gwendolyn Brooks, Jamilla Woods, and Mick Jenkins, following themes of creativity, the environment, home, chance, reflection, and memory, and tap into their creative inspiration to write original poetry. Dinner will be provided. RSVP is required.
Thursday, April 27, 2023, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.
Young Chicago Authors | 1180 N Milwaukee Ave Chicago, IL
Rock Island Workshop
To Feel the World as a Poem: A Youth Poetry Workshop
Students in grades K-6 and grades 7-12, join us for a poetry workshop led by Ryan Collins. Participants will explore poems that create a certain magic where the language transforms a large thing into something small and personal or takes a small thing and expands it into something large and universal. Afterwards, they will write their own poems, using their five senses, memories, and feelings. Food and drinks will be provided. RSVP is required.
Saturday, April 29, 2023
Grades K-6: 10:00 – 12:00 p.m. | Grades 7-12: 12:30 – 2:30 p.m.
Midwest Writing Center | 401 19th St Rock Island, IL
Resources for Young Poets
Past Winners of the Gwendolyn Brooks Youth Poetry Awards
Browse past winners and read their poems in the chapbooks below.
Download the entire list of winning and honorable mention poems in the 2022 Chapbook.
View the 2022 Winners and Honorable Mentions by Grade:
Download the entire list of winning and honorable mention poems in the 2021 Chapbook.
View the 2021 Winners and Honorable Mentions by Grade:
Download a complete copy of the 2020 Winning poems. Download a complete copy of the 2020 Honorable Mention poems.
View the list of 2020 Winners by Grade:
View the list of 2020 Honorable Mentions by Grade:
Download a complete copy of the 2019 Winning poems. Download a complete copy of the 2019 Honorable Mention poems.
View the list of 2019 Winners by Grade
View the list of 2019 Honorable Mentions by Grade:
Download the 2018 list of Winning poems. Download the 2018 list of Honorable Mention poems.