The Gwendolyn Brooks Youth Poetry Awards

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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 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.”

In this recording, enjoy young poets reading their winning poems. Listen to author and educator Dr. Eve L. Ewing, Nora Brooks Blakely, and others express the importance of the Gwendolyn Brooks Youth Poetry Awards and the legacy of Gwendolyn Brooks. Watch the 2021 Virtual Awards Ceremony.

Submit Your Poem

2024 Submissions are closed

Winners will be announced in August. Stay tuned for the date, time, and location of the awards ceremony. 

Contest Guidelines
  • 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 joint or co-written poems for this contest).
  • All entries must be the original work of the young person submitting the poem.
  • Poems containing visual elements are allowed, if all images/visuals are original to the poet.
  • Please only submit poems written during the current academic year, since poems are judged based on grade level.
  • Poems may be submitted by the student, their parent/guardian, or their teacher.
  • 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.
  • At this time, we can only accept and effectively judge poems written in English.

More questions about submitting? Read the submission FAQs.

What You Win

Winners Receive

  • $100 for grades K-4 winners
  • $200 for grade 5-8 winners
  • $300 for grade 9-12 winners

Winners and Honorable Mentions Receive

  • A book of poetry
  • A certificate of your award
  • Publication in the Gwendolyn Brooks Youth Poetry Awards chapbook (all winners and honorable mentions receive one copy)
  • A Gwendolyn Brooks tote bag
  • Recognition at the awards ceremony (winners will recite their poems onstage and honorable mentions will have a line of their poem read by the emcee)
  • Some of the 2023 Gwendolyn Brooks Youth Poetry Award winners gather for a group photo credit GlitterGuts

    Some of the 2023 Gwendolyn Brooks Youth Poetry Award Winners gather on stage for a group photo before the ceremony at the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts. View the complete Facebook Album. (All photos by GlitterGuts) 

  • GBYPA2023 Audience cr Glitter Guts

    Families cheer for young poets as they take the stage.

  • Guest adding a line to the Group Poem at the 2023 Gwendolyn Brooks Youth Poetry Awards ceremony credit GlitterGuts

    A guest adds a line to the group poem at the 2023 awards ceremony.

  • GBYPA2023 Denzel Burkestudents

    Young poets gather on stage with host Denzel Burke to read a group poem created by attendees.

  • GBYPA2023 Winner D

    A 2023 contest winner recites their poem on stage.

  • Gwendolynbrookspoetrybooth08202022 0879 cr Glitter Guts Photography

    A 2022 contest winner poses with family at the photo booth following the ceremony.

  • 2019 Youth Poetry Award Workshop with Tara Betts at the Stony Island Arts Bank

    Students participating in a poetry workshop facilitated by author Tara Betts at the Stony Island Arts Bank (2019).

  • Eve L Ewing in audience with 2018 Poetry Award winner at the Poetry Foundation Photo by Olga Lopez

    Author, educator, and 2020 Public Humanities Award recipient Dr. Eve L. Ewing sitting in the audience with a 2018 contest winner before the Ceremony at the Poetry Foundation. (Photo by Olga Lopez)

  • 2017 GBYPA winner reciting poem on stage at the Logan Center for the Arts Photo by Bleh Seton

    A 2017 contest winner recites their poem on stage at the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts. (Photo by Bleh Seton)

  • 2017 GBYPA winners credit Mark Hallett

    2017 contest winners pose for a photo op on stage at the Logan Center for the Arts following the ceremony. (Photo by Mark Hallett)

Resources for Educators and Writers

Whether you are an educator or a young writer, Illinois Humanities has writing guides, tips, and short online lessons to help you practice poetry in and out of the classroom. Check out resources from Illinois Humanities and our partners and download the Gwendolyn Brooks Youth Poetry Awards Toolkit for K-12 educators.

Contest Winners

Download the 2023 Chapbook containing all of the winning poems listed below.

2023 Winners


  • My family rains snow” by Faith Shelby, Oak Park
  • Giganto Cat” by Glenn Cambalik, Oak Park
  • Honorable Mention: “ The Love” by Freyja Sieg, Oak Park

1st Grade

  • The Wind” by Aria Hampton, Chicago
  • The Seaside” by Maeve Rogers, Savoy
  • Honorable Mention: “Candy” by Binna Schwartz, Chicago
  • Honorable Mention: “My First Day of School” by Ethan Grinstein, Chicago

2nd Grade

  • The Spelling Bee” by Krishna Rajan, Chicago
  • Corey” by Ethan Margulies, Chicago
  • Honorable Mention: “Earth, Our Home” by Clara Alfaia, Chicago

3rd Grade

  • [found poem]” by Dash Carr, Oak Park
  • The Faun in the Forest” by Miriam Palmer, Skokie
  • Honorable Mention: “Love before Peace” by Emily Watkins, Chicago

4th Grade

  • A Girl Named Mia” by Gracelin Cassidy, Monmouth
  • The Sadness of Pollution” by Charlotte Chung, Chicago
  • Honorable Mention: “Fading, Fading away” by Vera Volckens, Oak Park

5th Grade

  • Second Generation Daughter” by Seham Matariyeh, Orland Park
  • Wild Freedom” by Luke Hong, Hinsdale
  • Honorable Mention: “The Moon and the Sea” by Noah Shiber, Chicago

6th Grade

  • Cannon” by Simon Gudell, Chicago
  • The Mountains of Rushing Waters” by Anna Palmer, Skokie
  • Honorable Mention: “Years and Years” by Trinity Rucker, Rockford

7th Grade

  • Today” by Mia Suhr, Salem
  • Honorable Mention: “Hall of Mirrors” by Henry Downing, Skokie
  • Honorable Mention: “The Thief behind the Shattered Mirrors” by Patrick Chan, Skokie

8th Grade

  • The Sun’s Sisters” by Eleanor Bertelsen, Geneseo
  • Neptune and the Salamander” by Henry Bohanon, Skokie
  • Honorable Mention: “ Where the Wind Blows” by Jonathan Ry Thach, Skokie

9th Grade

  • Love and Shame” by Camila Bravo, Chicago
  • Ophelia” by MiKaylah Brown, Caseyville
  • Honorable Mention: “Mushroom Cloud” by Justina Muszynski, Chicago

10th Grade

  • American Sun” by Robert Gao Champaign
  • Transcriptions of Two Voicemails” by Adelia Sandifer, Alton
  • Honorable Mention: “Cre(m)ation of Memory” by Morgan Montoya, Chicago

11th Grade

  • Beautiful Mess” by Sophia Memon, Chicago
  • su liao de ai (plastic love)” by Sophie Lin, Naperville
  • Honorable Mention: “What We Use as Medicine” by Hannah Bilgin, Chicago
  • Honorable Mention: “The Monsters that Hide behind her Silence” by Mateo Murphy, Monmouth

12th Grade

  • Endurance Test” by Anonymous, Naperville
  • beans (rebrewed)” by Ashtynn Geans, Chicago
  • Honorable Mention: “Lifeline” by Annie Wu, Chicago

Download the 2023 Chapbook. 

Missing your chapbook? Contact us.

Previous Winners

Download a chapbook or list to read the poems of previous winners.

Want an earlier listing of winners? Contact us.


Stay Tuned for Upcoming Events

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Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the timeline for the Gwendolyn Brooks Youth Poetry Awards?
  • January 2024: Submissions portal opens
  • First Wednesday 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.

Contact Us

Rebecca Amato
Director of Teaching and Learning
(312) 374-1554