Head in the Game*

March 19, 2023

2022 Merit Award
By Kyle Heaton

A cool breeze blows across the rocky concrete.
My heart races,
sweat beading down in my eyes.
The sun’s rays like lasers on my skin.
My foot jab steps,
faking out the lifeless defender in front of me.
I dribble once, twice, three times,
downhill towards the Coca-Cola hoop.
I cross over between my legs,
take a step back,
release the ball from my hands.
Swish, my team wins.
I celebrate with my dog,
the only person watching.
I chase down the ball and play again.
Not stopping until dinner,
or the hoop is darkened by night.
What else is better?

*Copyright © 2022 by Kyle Heaton. Broadside illustrated by Megan Carroll.

Poet’s bio:
Kyle Heaton attends Squalicum High School.

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.

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.


March 5, 2023

2022 Merit Award
By Rusty Bower

The sun emanates confounding energy
Unconditional radiation for the duration of its time

It bears perpetual fusion and electromagnetic rupture
yet remains the singular source of luminance and life

while the earth remains among its star it is nurtured
Bonded by immense gravity

Through millennia or a moment
Evolution and complexity arise

I suppose mother
You are like the sun

*Copyright © 2022 by Rusty Bower. Broadside illustrated by Kimberly Wulfestieg.

Poet’s bio: Rusty Bower is 17 years old and in the eleventh grade at Sehome High School in Bellingham. This is Rusty’s first poem, completed for a project in creative writing class for Mother’s Day. “The poem is about how much my mom does for me despite her struggles.”

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.

the Contest is open

March 1, 2023

The Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest is now open for submissions from Whatcom County, Washington, poets.

Here are the important dates for the 2023 contest:
Submissions open: March 1, 2023
Submission deadline: March 31, 2023
In-person submission deadline: 4:00pm, Friday, March 31, 2023
Winners notified by phone or e-mail: by April 30, 2023
Awards ceremony: mid-May

The contest is open to poets of all ages and all levels of writing experience. This year’s judges are Caitlin Scarano and Leslie Wharton.

Please read and follow the guidelines very carefully.


February 26, 2023

2022 Merit Award
By Kathryn Aspinall

Tonight everything hurts.
I am being split open like
   a soft pear sliced in the palm of your hand,
again and again until I am but
   long pieces laying on a ceramic dish
Which you hold out to me, offering

   And I eat

even though that is my flesh, this is my heart,
over here, my eyes
(you missed them because they were closed)
I missed myself because I am closed.

We are walking the length of the lake in Vermont
We are putting away the sheep in the evening and
returning to the woods.
We are the owls hooting once,
Tonight everything hurts and I sat down
to write a list of all of the things that I loved.
The owls are on it, the knife is on it,
the cutting board is on it
You are on it in little pieces, sliced like soft pears
down the middle.

*Copyright © 2022 by Kathryn Aspinall. Broadside illustrated by Megan Carroll.

Poet’s bio: Kathryn Aspinall is a senior at Sehome High School and has recently moved from Orcas Island. She is a full time student-athlete and has recently begun writing daily poetry. Kathryn will be pursuing a biology and art major at Willamette University in the fall. “Pears” was written late one night in January after Kathryn made a list of things that she loved. The poem was inspired by various owls, relationships, bowls of fruit, and walks in the woods.

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.

Meet the judges

February 16, 2023

The Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest has just announced that Caitlin Scarano and Leslie Wharton will be the judges for this year’s Contest, which opens for submissions March 1, 2023.

Caitlin Scarano is a writer based in Bellingham, Washington. She holds a PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and an MFA from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Her second full-length collection of poems, The Necessity of Wildfire, was selected by Ada Limón as the winner of the Wren Poetry Prize and recently won a 2022 Pacific Northwest Book Award. Her work has appeared in Granta, Carve, and Colorado Review. You can find her at caitlinscarano.com

Leslie Wharton understands poetry holds the power to change the course of events. As a tender-hearted judge, she’ll be drawn to poems that move her emotionally. Along with her partner’s pottery and welded art, her books, cards, and poetry are displayed in a shipping container turned tiny gallery, Wharton Studio Works. Leslie published She Votes in 2022 and is co-author of Phoenix Rising: Stories of Remarkable Women Walking Through Fire. Her work as a caregiver for the elderly inspires her writing.

After the Flood*

February 12, 2023

2022 Walk Award
By Leslie Wharton

Finally clean
she still smells mud       so moves to higher ground
the one picture of her papa       dries rippled

tears pool       stranded salmon spawn       in fields
time divides into       before and after       but never

ever after       she stockpiles food        up high
gathers kindness       counts her blessings

watches weather       longs to love the river again
bogged down       by newly formed tenderness

she can no longer       sweep spiderwebs       shoo flickers
she gently       places       shells       back to sea

by summer       she’ll return       to the Nooksack
where gravel bars wash away       new beds rest

beneath the highwater mark       exposed sapling roots
hold fast       in undercurrents of fear       hope floats

*Copyright © 2022 by Leslie Wharton. Broadside illustrated by Kimberly Wulfestieg.

Poet’s bio:
Leslie Wharton works as a caregiver for the elderly, who inspire and listen to her poetry. Her efforts to share poetry with a broader community include gathering poets for a Dress Poetry Show at Allied Arts Gallery, the Bellingham Women’s March, and other public events. Colorful broadside posters of Leslie’s poems are available for display in restaurants and galleries. Her first poetry collection, She Votes, was published in late 2022. “This poem started as an exploration of hope and then became a poem about our community’s recent flood.” When Leslie decided to donate her Walk Award plaque to the Sumas Library, she discovered, sadly, that the library was destroyed in November’s flood. Having lost her home to wildfire, she understands how disaster changes a survivor.


February 11, 2023

The judges haven’t been announced and the Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest won’t open for submissions until March 1, 2023, but the guidelines are posted! See the 2023 Contest page, or just download the guidelines here, and keep polishing that poem for a couple more weeks!


February 5, 2023

2022 Walk Award
By Hayley Van Ness

Crazy cute creative creatures
Are awesome active acrobats
Tiny tame tigers
Sneaky sly silly stretchers

*Copyright © 2022 by Hayley Van Ness. Broadside illustrated by Kimberly Wulfestieg.

Poet’s bio:
Hayley Van Ness is 8 years old and likes cats. She has two of them!

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.

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