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Essay Tue Jul 21 2015

Honoring Open Mic Poetry

We call it "live lit" these days, but the practice of performing written material for an audience goes back decades in Chicago. From storytelling sessions to coffeehouse readings to the genesis of the poetry slam, it's a tradition that only continues to grow.

One of the few awards to formally honor that tradition, Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic Award, presented by the Guild Literary Complex, holds its 22nd annual award ceremony this Wednesday, July 22 at 7pm at the University of Chicago's Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th St.

The Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic Award recognizes emerging poets from across the state, and asks its semifinalists to prove their worthiness of the big award by reading a selected poem aloud. The audience then chooses the winner, who receives a $600 cash prize.

This year's semifinalists are Catalina Bode, Asia Calcagno, Suman Chhabra, Solomohn Nalishi Ennis-Klyczek, Aja Hall, Larry Janowski, Caroline Johnson, Maya Marshall, Cassandra McGovern, Laura Merleau-McGrady, David Nekimken, Kelly Raymundo, Timothy David Rey, Rachel Slotnick, Javon Smith, Myron Stokes, Jacob Victorine, Adam Webster, Sam Wein, Dylan Weir, and Kelly Xintaris. (Merleau-McGrady will not be competing at the event.)

Toni Asante Lightfoot and Quraysh Ali Lansana co-host the event, and Deepak Unnikrishnan and avery r. young will also read, and there will be a tribute to the dearly departed Mama Brenda Matthews. A free reception will follow the ceremony. Tickets are $8, or $6 for students and seniors.

 
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