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21st Annual Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic Award July 23
From a press release

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CHICAGO—21 years ago, renowned Chicago poet Gwendolyn Brooks and the Guild Literary Complex started a $500 poetry award given to Illinois poets for a written work read aloud. This year, the Guild continues this tradition at the 21st Annual Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic Award taking place on July 23, 7:00—9:00 p.m. at the Chopin Theatre ( 1543 West Division St. ). In the tradition of a good time, a cash bar, door prizes, and a special raffle will be presented.

More a party than a reading, the evening will celebrate the robust poetry community of written and spoken word and will commemorate Brooks' legacy in cultivating emerging voices. Following a lively reading, the $500 poetry prize will be awarded—based upon an audience vote—to one of 20 poets who submitted through an open call. Preliminary Judge J.W. Basilo selected these 20 finalists from over 70 submissions.

This year's 20 finalists, who will read their works aloud, are: Chirskira Caillouet, Samy Lang, Jacob Victorine, Miles Clark, Charles "Charley" Reynard, Fatimah Asghar, Livia Regina Harkow, Dylan James Weir, Cameron McGill, Erin Watson, Rachel Lena Slotnick, Olivia Cole, Jamila Woods, Irene Savine, Sharon L. Powell, Kelly Reuter Raymundo, Deepak Unnikrishnan, Mojdeh Stoakley, Andy Karol, and Ele Matelan.

Past winners include Sename Amagashie, Tara Betts, C.C. Carter, Stephanie Gentry-Fernandez, Marian Hayes, Langston Kerman, Sage Morgan-Hubbard, Nate Marshall, Stephanie Rose Perez, Tristan Silverman, Dan "Sully" Sullivan, and Mark Turcotte, among others.

Nate Marshall, poet, activist, and the 2013 Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic Award winner states, "Winning was such a vital confirmation of the work that I've been doing these past few years. I love the award's structure because it lives at the intersection of a poem's literary merit and its ability to be rendered convincingly through oral recitation. That intersection is, for me, the most exciting place for poetry to exist."

The event will be emceed by Toni Asante Lightfoot, and will feature a special appearance by Gwendolyn Brooks' daughter Nora Brooks Blakely, along with Aurora Performance Group and Marian Hayes, who will read her poem "The Blues" that won her the $500 prize 20 years ago.

Tickets to the event are $8 general admission/$6 students and seniors, and are available at the door.

The 21st Annual Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic Award is co-sponsored by the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture at the University of Chicago.


From its inception in 1994, faculty, students, and staff who have been involved with the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture have been committed to establishing a new type of research institute devoted to the study of race and ethnicity, one that seeks to expand the study of race beyond the black/white paradigm while exploring social and identity cleavages within racialized communities. Scholars affiliated with the Center have also endeavored to make race and ethnicity central topics of intellectual investigation at the University of Chicago by fostering interdisciplinary research, teaching, and public debate among students and faculty. Fundamentally, the Center is committed to producing engaged scholarship that rejects the false dichotomy between rigorous intellectual work and community activism. They seek, instead, to contribute intellectually challenging and innovative scholarship that can help people transform their thinking and their lives.


J.W. Basilo is a writer, performer, comedian, and educator from Chicago. He is a National and World Poetry Slam finalist, a PushCart Prize Nominee, Executive Director of Chicago Slam Works, one half of Poetry/Comedy duo Beard Fight, and a company member with Red Theater Chicago. His work has appeared on NPR, CNN, CBS, WGN, in the Chicago Tribune, and in hundreds of live venues. Currently, you can catch him every Sunday in Chicago at the Green Mill, where he co-hosts The Uptown Poetry Slam, and Mondays at Haymarket Pub & Brewery, where he serves as curator and host of The LitMash.


Founded in 1989, the Guild Literary Complex ( the Guild ) is a Chicago-based literary organization that present and supports diverse, divergent, and emerging voices through innovative programs, performances, and readings. Actively working with individuals and organizations from Chicago's many neighborhoods, the Guild seeks to connect people, groups, and geographies through literature—bringing unexpected writers, programs, and audiences together. The Guild believes that vibrant literature contributes to society and community, and that all people should have access to dynamic, engaging juxtaposition of voices. The Guild's programming includes Palabra Pura ( bilingual poetry ); the Poetry Performance Incubator ( collaborative theatre and poetry ); and open-submission writing contests such as the Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic Award and Prose Awards for short fiction and non-fiction. Since its formation, the Guild has established itself, in the words of the Illinois Arts Council, as "Chicago's premier literary center." The Guild has been twice selected as a model literary center by the National Endowment for the Arts.

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