Illinois Humanities provides accessibility and resources to enhance the opportunity for all K-12 writers to participate in the Gwendolyn Brooks Youth Poetry Awards contest. Whether you are an educator or a young writer, we have tools to support you.
The Gwendolyn Brooks Youth Poetry Awards open annually in November, and submissions are due in the spring. Learn more and submit your poem here.
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the timeline for the Gwendolyn Brooks Youth Poetry Awards?
- November 1: Submissions portal opens
- First Friday in May: Submissions close
- May-July: Judging process takes place
- Mid-July - Early August: Winners and honorable mentions are notified
- Mid-August - Early September: Awards ceremony in Chicago
What happens if I win?
Winning poets will be notified before the end of August. Awardees and their families will receive prize packages including a cash award, poetry books, and a copy of a chapbook produced by Illinois Humanities that includes all of the winning poems. Awardees will also be invited to join us at the Gwendolyn Brooks Youth Poetry Awards Ceremony in Chicago taking place in late August or early September, where poets will get to read their poems live. Poets who are unable to attend the ceremony live may also submit a video of their poetry reading to be played at the event.
Is there a paper submission form?
We recognize that not all students in Illinois have access to computers or the internet, and for those students we encourage them to mail their submission to Illinois Humanities at 125 South Clark St., Ste. 650, Chicago, IL, 60603. Paper submission forms are available upon request; please do not request or send a paper submission if your student has regular access to the internet.
Can I submit on behalf of a youth poet?
Are you an educator for K-12 students? If yes, then you can submit poems on behalf of your students for consideration in the competition. Simply note on the online submission form when prompted that you’re a teacher or educator, and follow the steps outlined on the submission form.
Can I submit a poem in another language?
At this time, we can only accept and effectively judge poems written in English.
How do I submit a large number of poems at once?
Educators may submit student poems in bulk, such as an entire class or after school program. To indicate this on the submission form, simply choose “yes” in the question about bulk uploading student work, then follow the directions at the bottom of the page. Poems must be uploaded as a single PDF or Word document and must:
- Be prefaced with a cover sheet containing the student’s name, grade, age, gender, and preference for anonymity
- Contain only one poem per page, per student
- Include only the poem’s text and title on the page (no names or identifying information)
What’s the judging process for student work?
All poems are judged anonymously. Once the submission deadline has been reached, Illinois Humanities sends the entries, without the author's identifying information, to a team of first-round reviewers for an initial screening round. Those reviewers assign a score to each poem, and those scores are averaged to determine the top scorers from each grade. Depending on the outcome of the scoring, the top 5-10 poems from each grade are sent on to a final judging committee comprised of representatives from Illinois Humanities, Brooks Permissions, and the Poetry Foundation. The judging committee selects two winners and one honorable mention for each grade.
Are scanned copies of poems acceptable rather than typed copies?
Yes! Our younger poets often submit hand-drawn pictures with their poems, and we love to see them. Scans are always welcome. We prefer that all poems be submitted on white paper in a standard font with black text.
Do you accept erasure poems or spoken word?
We, unfortunately, do not accept erasure poems or any other poetry based on the words of other writers, and we are very strict about plagiarism. We accept spoken word-oriented poems, but the poem must be able to live comfortably on the page so that it can be read and evaluated by our judges.
Is it okay if poems include profanity?
On principle, we do not censor student work for this competition. We ask that you exercise judgment in submitting poems that include profanity or potentially triggering content, as most of our student audience is children below the age of 14. However, we value our youth poets’ voices and that sometimes may include controversial vocabulary choices.
I need a copy of the last GBYPA chapbook with my student’s poem in it! How do I get a copy?
Please contact us for a copy of the chapbook.
Resources for Educators
Our community partners in Chicago have provided a wealth of resources on teaching poetry to K-12 students, including complete lesson plans, writing prompts, and copies of poems. For information, please visit our friends at:
- Poetry Foundation: Learning prompts
- Brooks Permissions: SEASONS: A Gwendolyn Brooks Experience (includes Gwendolyn Brooks’ Young Poet’s Primer)
- Chicago Poetry Center: School poetry programs
- Young Chicago Authors: Resources for educators
- DIY Teaching Guide
Watch our recent webinars for educators on teaching poetry to K-12 students.
Resources for Young Writers
Conferences, Workshops, and Festivals
- Young Chicago Authors: Rooted & Radical Youth Poetry Festival (formerly known as Louder Than a Bomb)
- StoryStudio Chicago: Online and in-person writing workshops for young writers
- 826CHI: Workshops, field trips, and an after-school writing lab
- Illinois State Board of Education: Annual conference (currently on hiatus) for young writers