Good Neighbors*

March 12, 2023

2022 Merit Award
By Linda Conroy

Where the creek trickles to meet the bay,
the tide creeps in, and the muddy sand
and soil mix and flood, a heron views
the scene, balancing on one long leg.
Two red-beaked oystercatchers poking
plankton, wade with common goldeneyes
at water’s edge. A flock of buffleheads
floats slowly past, with coots of course,
and gulls fly overhead. So many seabirds,
every species different from the rest, yet
they’re here together, bustling, busy
colonizing this small stretch of coast,
content together, reveling in quiet lives
finding no necessity to quack or flap.

*Copyright © 2022 by Linda Conroy. Broadside illustrated by Angela Boyle.

Poet’s bio: Linda Conroy is the self-published author of a poetry collection, Ordinary Signs, and plans to complete another volume shortly. After a long career as a social worker, she now enjoys walking, playing various instruments and singing, as well as creating poems and supporting her friends’ writing endeavors. This poem, “Good Neighbors,” was inspired by watching ducks at the lagoon where Padden Creek enters Bellingham Bay, on a day when so much of the world news was about folk being less than friendly.

the new snow*

February 19, 2023

2022 Merit Award
By Luther Allen

fresh as if you’d never seen snow before,
never seen the leaning maple, the galactic spire
of seed clusters, rustblood of dock stems,
or the perfect chickadees.

soft as it takes you in, holy,
like your first step
into a forgotten world
of silence.
gentle in its burden.

never questioning whether
it is a veil or the lifting of a veil.
and you know nothing

other than you are being

being held.

*Copyright © 2022 by Luther Allen. Broadside illustrated by Angela Boyle.

Poet’s bio: Luther Allen is a 74-year-old building designer who lives on Sumas Mountain. He is a previous Boynton winner and has one published book of poetry: The View from Lummi Island. With Judy Kleinberg, he co-edited Noisy Water, Poetry from Whatcom County, WA. This poem is written about the solace in experiencing nature, as a tonic to the pandemic, climate change, forced emigration, intolerance, war, etc., etc., etc. And TV, twitter, and all other forms of vicarious involvement.

NOTE: a chapbook of the 2022 Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest winning poems, including this one, is available at Village Books in Bellingham. All sales profits benefit the annual contest.

Let Yourself Be Weary*

January 1, 2023

2022 Walk Award
By Maureen Kane

Let your body crumble to the ground
and lie on the wet forest floor.
Right here, in the middle of your path.

Let your skin and bones slide off your soul
surrendering dreams and hopes, and to do lists
into the decaying leaves and rich soil.

Give yourself to roots and mushrooms.

Let yourself become nurse log
molting snake
earthworm, digesting dirt.
Join the ants in their underground labyrinths.
Sleep cozily with rabbit and fox beneath the earth.

Let your weariness be the chrysalis holding
your bare beating heart and soul.

rest, and rest, and rest

And from here, let your life renew.
Breathe and wait
until you have some recognition
of who you have become.

*Copyright © 2022 by Maureen Kane. Broadside illustrated by Angela Boyle.

Poet’s bio:
Maureen lives in Bellingham, Washington, with her husband and hairless cat. She is a mental health therapist in private practice. Prior to being a therapist, her work focused on literacy, health care access, aging, homeless youth, and disability. She is the author of a book of poems called The Phoenix Requires Ashes, Poems for The Journey. Let Yourself Be Weary wrote itself while the poet was walking in the woods during a very challenging time.

looking back, looking forward

December 10, 2022

As you may know, in addition to being an independent site focused on all-things-poetry in Cascadia, and sometimes beyond, The Poetry Department began, and continues to serve, as the public platform for the annual Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest. That entails announcing events and deadlines, posting guidelines, and each year, posting the winning poems and the artful placards that display them.

The contest is exceedingly grateful to judges Victor Ortiz and Dayna Patterson, who selected the winning poems, and to the four artists who applied their considerable talents to illustrate the placards: Angela Boyle, Megan Carroll, Kimberly Wulfestieg, and Christian Anne Smith.

Tomorrow, Sunday, December 11, 2022, and each of the next 24 Sundays, the text of one of the winning poems will be displayed along with the placard and a brief bio of the poet. Each poem will be linked on the Winners page once it has appeared here.

The Sue Boynton Poetry Contest is a wonderful Whatcom County community project that is run entirely by volunteers. If you care about community poetry and have a few hours available to help, the contest committee is in need of an infusion of new volunteers for a variety of tasks. Please contact Joan Packer at torchlite AT or phone (360) 714-1306.

And from another planet*

March 28, 2022

2021 Merit Award
by Robert Stern

the aliens took along one
of their youngsters
landing on earth in a remote
mountain area
stars sprayed across the sky
suddenly a train
came winding around a steep curve
whistle blowing again and again
the kid was astonished
look look can we make one
no! this is ancient stuff
but i want to drive one
Zona, what have we gotten
ourselves into here
Ogan, these people are primitives
and know nothing about nothing
oh, the tracks are gleaming
are the green and red lights alive?
I’ve never wished for anything more

*Copyright © 2021 by Robert Stern. Broadside illustrated by Angela Boyle.

Poet’s bio:
“I have been writing poetry for over 50 years. In 1978 I had a book called Spirit Hand published by Konglomerati Press and illustrated by Kit Hirshberg. I write poetry every week under the inspiration that it is a ‘touch of the marvelous.'”

Winter Day*

February 16, 2022

2021 Merit Award
by Callum LaPlant, 6th grade

In the winter, all full of white snow
Sets a beautiful Pine Siskin sitting on the snow.
My dog starts barking, I started yelling at my dog,
She keeps barking,
Her tail wagging back and forth.
I grabbed her laser then I pointed it at the ground.
She’s out in a flash
Probably faster than you would know,
Running everywhere the laser goes.
Back and forth.
When she gets distracted.
I grab the camera, by the time I do the Pine Siskin
Was away, in the beautiful white snowy sky.
I look up a little bit more then I see a whole nest
Of Pine Siskins sitting right there

*Copyright © 2021 by Callum LaPlant. Broadside illustrated by Angela Boyle.


February 12, 2022

2021 Merit Award
by Sophie Hall

climb the steep road to your cousin’s house and
find yourself moonwalking the runaway truck ramp
a few miles down, swallow rainwater backwash
when you forget which exit comes first

dry out by the field almost as full as the
FLEA MARKET TODAY sign — a calling so
concrete you can find all your uncles and grand-
fathers mixed with old keys and aged Coca Cola
bottles like syrup in hot sun, overpriced lemonade only
sipped in offerings from run-into relatives,
green paper spirals on smudged cups

stop at the mountain spring by the highway
where your mother’s father took her before
you, fill up your water bottle at the ground-level bar,
gulp gravel from the turnaround

spin down the mountain all muddy
because you met Frank Lloyd Wright in a timed essay
on the west coast and came back, so composed, so
water-bottle aluminum and no longer soda can,
after your first year of college to find Fallingwater
a castle on clay, a cool drink
on the way home

*Copyright © 2021 by Sophie Hall. Broadside illustrated by Angela Boyle.

At the Edge*

February 4, 2022

2021 Merit Award
by Lynn Geri

Dusk moves past the end of a foliage strewn road
That disappears into a woods of leafless trees.
Moon asleep on the bosom of a cloudy sky
Is unaware its light is needed to be ready
For the narrowing of this by and by.

Far into the forest a white bird radiates
Brilliant, but small spokes of flicking
Light, low in the swaying branches.
Dusk has climbed the trees all day dickering
With the rhythm of sun and season.

Moonless screeches, call from the recesses
Deep in the root-mind of the forest’s trees
Whose limbs hold fast this fiery bird
To a sound only an owl would find sweet
Dusk succumbs to the stabbing still of darkness.

*Copyright © 2021 by Lynn Geri. Broadside illustrated by Angela Boyle.

Poet’s bio:
Lynn Geri did not start reading or writing poems until in her 70s… she is now 82 years old… and feeling at the edge of something. Her career was as a consultant/resource to large businesses and schools, helping people think about thinking.

Lynn has published three books of poetry and five pocket-size Scrollbooks, she calls them… easy to carry. so a poem is always with us. She has published several poems in literary magazines. One poem was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

Forgive me if I forget*

January 27, 2022

2021 Walk Award
by Marie Eaton

Forgive me if I forget to return your phone call.
I have been chasing an elusive melody
across guitar strings,
subtle and swift as a hummingbird
darting through my butterfly bush.

Forgive me if I forget to come in from the garden.
I have been lured by ripening red tomatoes
in my greenhouse,
and blueberry bushes, heavy with fruit,
bending boughs to kiss the brown earth.

Forgive me if I forget to unload the dishwasher.
I have been reading poems,
slowly turning pages
reveling in rhyme and a perfect turn of phrase.

Forgive me if I forget to lock the front door.
I have been tempted
by brilliant washes of color across the western sky,
and the firefly wink of stars
as dusk creeps toward night.

I may forget,
but this forgetting is truest remembering.

*Copyright © 2021 by Marie Eaton. Broadside illustrated by Angela Boyle.

Poet’s bio:
Marie Eaton’s writing has taken many forms — “stories to gather in memories of earlier years, songs to capture images or emotions, laments for our sweet planet, academic research papers, and proposals to inspire us to create a palliative community of excellence.” She taught writing in all these forms at Fairhaven College at Western Washington University for many years, and now as Professor Emerita she is the Community Champion for the Palliative Care Institute at Western Washington University. She loves helping others find the tools and strategies to find their own passions and the voice to express them. Most of Marie’s creative work has been as a songwriter, marrying melody and lyric. With the singing group Motherlode she has produced nine albums, each featuring Marie’s writing.


January 23, 2022

2021 Walk Award
by David P. Drummond

We launched where
pioneer cabins gathered
long, glass and resin craft
of ancient organic design
Hidden ruby-colored bark
in their alder shoreline stance
Hangs of strobili and catkins
unto a river mirror move
Tar paper flaps, spirit bird
and whistle-call from eagle
Southpaw slough steerage
past woody debris, of flood water

A rest on cedar springboard
grey-blue feather dreads
trench coat trundle
after scale-leg and bare toes
Whisper paddle alerts
his golden-eye, sabre-
beak stare, at ‘yakers
Vanguard sentinel for
shaggy-squawk flock
of Jurassic fly-a-ways
Nooksack nobility flushed
from sleepy longhouse hide

*Copyright © 2021 by David P. Drummond. Broadside illustrated by Angela Boyle.

Poet’s bio:
David P. Drummond gives attention to insights from Our Universe and shares them in poetry, classes and discussion. You can read him in: Clover, Whatcom Watch, and the Noisy Water and Solstice anthologies. He also enjoys fresh perspectives with open-hearted people via WWU/ALL, WA Department of Ecology, Coastal Forest Merlin Project and beyond. Inspiration for this poem: “Seeking a shared outdoor odyssey, we kayaked the slow-flow of the Nooksack River to its confluence with Bellingham Bay. Here is a ‘slice of my senses’ experiential on our Time-Space Continuum.”

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