To Feel the World as a Poem: A Youth Poetry Workshop

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Apr 29, 2023


Midwest Writing Center
401 19th St
Rock Island, IL 61201


Open to the public

Many terrific poems 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.

In this workshop, we’ll look at some examples of such magical poems (including poems by Gwendolyn Brooks); then, we’ll write our own poems, using our five senses, our memories, and our feelings. We will close the workshop by sharing our poems and look ahead to writing new ones.

Students will be invited to submit their poems to the Gwendolyn Brooks Youth Poetry Awards, a statewide youth poetry competition founded by Gwendolyn Brooks herself when she was Illinois’s poet laureate. Illinois Humanities has been proud to present the competition since 2017.

These workshops will be divided into two age groups: grades K-6 from 10 a.m.-12 p.m., and grades 7-12 from 12:30-2:30 p.m. They will be hosted at the Midwest Writing Center by Executive Director Ryan Collins. Food and drinks will be provided.

This event is free and open to students in grades K through 12, but space is limited. To attend, please register below.

About Your Host

Ryan Collins (M.F.A. Poetry, Columbia College Chicago) is the Executive Director of the Midwest Writing Center, a non-profit literary arts organization, and an English Instructor at St. Ambrose University. He is the author of A New American Field Guide & Song Book, and five poetry chapbooks. His work has appeared widely in anthologies and journals, including Another Chicago Magazine; Booth; Columbia Poetry Review; DIAGRAM; Ninth Letter; PEN American; Spork; Third Coast; Verse Daily; Zócalo Public Square, and many others. He’s performed at series and festivals across the country, including at Pygmalion, Mission Creek Festival, and the Illinois One State Together in the Arts Conference.

He has led writing workshops for many schools, libraries, and organizations, such as Quad City Arts’ Metro Arts Youth Apprenticeship Program; the Figge Art Museum; CommUniveristy; Arrowhead Ranch; Family Resources; and the Midwest Writing Center, where he directs the Young Emerging Writers Summer Internship Program. He’s been a featured author at the Luther College Writers Festival, the Iowa City Book Festival, and the Des Moines Area Community College Celebration of the Literary Arts. He is the recipient grants from Quad City Arts’ Arts Dollar$ Program, the Illinois Arts Council Agency, and St. Ambrose University. He hosts the SPECTRA Reading Series at Rozz-Tox in Rock Island, IL, where he lives..

What to Expect

This workshop will be presented in English with a combination of visual, written, and spoken engagement. Please contact Meredith Nnoka at with any questions about accommodations or accessibility. Please also reach out to Meredith with any concerns about food allergies or dietary restrictions.

Parents and/or guardians are asked to remain with their child during the K-6 workshop. Parents/guardians who are unable to stay for the workshop may reach out to Meredith Nnoka at to discuss further options.

COVID-19 Policy

When entering the facility:

  • Masks encouraged, but not required.
  • Sanitize hands. Wipe surfaces after use.
  • Self-screen. Do not enter the library if you feel ill, have returned from a known COVID-19 hotspot, or have had a secondary exposure. if you are COVID positive, please stay safe at home.
Directions and Parking

The Midwest Writing Center is located at 401 19th St., Rock Island, IL 61201. Free street parking is widely available.


This event, part of our Gwendolyn Brooks Youth Poetry Awards program, is made possible thanks to the generous support of our funders.

The Gwendolyn Brooks Youth Poetry Awards are partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency and have been made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities: Democracy demands wisdom. Additional support is provided by Abrams Books, Library of America, Poetry Foundation and Allstate.

About the Gwendolyn Brooks Youth Poetry Awards

This event is presented as a part of Illinois Humanities’ annual Gwendolyn Brooks Youth Poetry Awards. This annual youth poetry competition honors 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 is 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.”

Learn more and submit a poem at

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