The Gwendolyn Brooks Youth Poetry Awards Enters Its 7th Year

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By Meredith Nnoka, Community Educator

Read Time 4 minutes
March 1, 2023

Illinois Humanities—in partnership with Brooks Permissions, the Poetry Foundation, and the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts—is thrilled to usher in a new year of the Gwendolyn Brooks Youth Poetry Awards, an annual writing competition celebrating K-12 poets in Illinois. Founded by former Illinois Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Gwendolyn Brooks, the awards honor the work of students across the state with gift packages, award certificates, publication in the annual chapbook, and a live ceremony in Chicago at the end of each summer.

Born in 1917, Gwendolyn Brooks moved to Illinois as a small child and lived in Chicago for the rest of her life. Her work as a poet and novelist reflected the complex dynamics of race, history, class, and gender through the perspectives of the everyday Chicagoans she interacted with on the South Side throughout her life. Though best known for her poem “We Real Cool,” her masterful ability to capture the voice of Chicago in a variety of poetic styles catapulted her to success as a poet. She was the first Black Pulitzer Prize-winner and the first Black woman to be elected to the Academy of Arts and Letters, to serve as Poet Laureate of Illinois and, later, as Poet Laureate of the United States.

Brooks founded what is now known as the Gwendolyn Brooks Youth Poetry Awards while she was still Illinois’s poet laureate. She believed in instilling “a continuing interest in the health of poetry” while celebrating and encouraging the creative spirit of Illinois’s young poets. 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.”

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Gwendolyn Brooks as a young girl. Courtesy of Brooks Permissions.

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We’re beyond grateful for the thoughtful insights and powerful words that our 2022 poets brought to the contest. We were incredibly fortunate to receive over 440 submissions—a record number—that demonstrated over and over again the wealth of wisdom and creativity of our state’s youth poets. Our 2022 award ceremony was likewise a tremendous success, bringing youth poets from across Illinois to the Logan Center in Chicago to celebrate their amazing achievements. It’s with this momentum and excitement that we begin to look toward 2023.

Here’s what’s ahead during our 2023 competition season:

  • March – April: Youth Poetry Workshops
  • April: National Poetry Month
  • May 5: Submissions due
  • July: Winners and honorable mentions are notified of their award
  • September 9: Awards ceremony in Chicago (in-person and live-streamed)

The 2023 season will be our first with in-person poetry workshops since 2019. These in-person workshops will take place in March and April 2023, to celebrate National Poetry Month, leading up to the May 5 submissions deadline.

Workshop Schedule:

And more to come!

We encourage you to reach out to us at with any questions, for help submitting your poem, and to inquire about hosting a poetry event at your school or afterschool program.

If you’d like to stay up to date with the 2023 competition and the 2022-23 submissions period, we encourage you to visit the Illinois Humanities website at and sign up for our mailing list. Please also be sure to visit the Poetry Foundation and Logan Center websites for future events and resources for young writers.

You can check out the work of our 2022 winners and honorable mentions in the 2022 chapbook online. You can also find the 2022 winners and honorable mentions’ favorite books listed on the 57th Street Books website.

Thank you to all who have submitted in the past and those who’ll submit this year. We look forward to reading your work and celebrating with you this summer.


About the Gwendolyn Brooks Youth Poetry Awards

This annual competition honors the legacy of Gwendolyn Brooks and the creativity of K-12 writers in Illinois by creating a platform for the next generation of poets to share their voices and develop their craft. Submissions open in November and awards are announced the following summer. Winners receive a prize package and are invited to celebrate at an awards ceremony in Chicago.

Learn More