April 5, 2022

2021 Merit Award
by Genevieve Whelan, 6th grade

I look up at my brother who is tall.
I love him in the morning, noon, and night.
He sometimes answers the phone when I call.
He loves his little sis; he will not fight.
My heart leaps because of my big brother.
All I want is my brother to come home.
My big brother loves me and my mother.
I will wait outside for him with my comb.
I wipe my tears when I think of my love.
I loved playing soccer with him and friends.
He opens his arms like wings of a dove.
If he would just come home, it just depends.
Please, Jacob, come home because I love you.
Please come home because I am feeling blue.

*Copyright © 2021 by Genevieve Whelan. Broadside illustrated by Christian Anne Smith.


April 1, 2022

2021 Merit Award
by Kami Westhoff

On nights the sky is a tantrum of texture and tone
I carry your ashes to the bridge. I ocean the hush
of traffic, cliff the scaffolding of buildings built
for collapse, force clouds into shapes of impossible
creatures. I think this is how you’d like to forever.

So often the skeleton gets forgotten, eclipsed
by organs that bleed or burst, quiver or collapse.
A needle in the retina to suspend blindness,
a scribble of gristle carved from tissue. I’m guilty
of this forgetting, so desperate to tether myself
to the trench of your memory, I missed the cathedral
of your bones.

There’s no way of knowing, but sometimes I wonder
what part of you I carry. The fissured section of a once-
fractured jaw, the clavicular cradle of morning-after
nightmares, or something more sacral, a bone so holy
even fire can’t ash it.

*Copyright © 2021 by Kami Westhoff. Broadside illustrated by Christian Anne Smith.

Poet’s bio:
Kami Westhoff is a writer, poet, and teacher from Bellingham, Washington. She is the author of three poetry chapbooks and a collection of short stories forthcoming in 2022. “Osteo” was inspired by a stunning and complicated April sunset days after retrieving her mother’s ashes. Much of her work explores nature’s ability to provide respite from suffering and insight into healing.

Driving Around*

February 24, 2022

2021 Merit Award
by Payton Ling, 12th grade

I am turning up One Direction
To drown out my cars loud noise
As my friends in the backseat argue
Over the next song, asking what’s the move?
My mind is focused on the road
I feel trapped in this tiny silver box
Going 50 in a 35
I am a map with no destination
We stop to climb trees and bridges
My friends bring me out to dance in the rain
In the middle of the road at midnight
They are beautiful
Back in the car we’re speeding down an empty road,
Midnight Memories blasting out of the speakers
We scream the lyrics till we can’t breathe.

*Copyright © 2021 by Payton Ling. Broadside illustrated by Christian Anne Smith.

Some Assembly Required*

February 20, 2022

2021 Merit Award
by David M. Laws

I know all the better alleys in town, Dad would say,
Driving his two boys behind stores, scavenging cedar
And pine boxes which had borne food, clothing, and all
Fifties goods. Store clerks cast the crates in alleys.

When Dad’s Ford wagon was full, we’d head to our alley,
Dump the catch over the fence and head back for more.
Then we’d deconstruct, unbending nails into jelly jars,
Sorting wood by size and type, stacking it in the shed.

We built a million dreams with our wood, our nails.
Adults saw rustily fastened heaps of inferior firewood
Festering in our yard. But younger eyes saw tanks,
Pirate ships, submarines, racecars, rockets and robots:
Juvenile fantasies fulfilled in well-worn wood.

*Copyright © 2021 by David M. Laws. Broadside illustrated by Christian Anne Smith.

Poet’s bio:
David M. Laws is a 72-year-old musical instrument repair technician, who attained international standing as a repair clinician and teacher. He is a partner in a local music store, but most of his time is spent playing keyboards, violin, saxophone, and singing. He was in four musical groups prior to COVID: a 22-piece big band, a ten-piece jazz combo, a New Orleans-style Second Line band, and a jam group.

“Some Assembly Required” details a happy memory of childhood: “My father, a workaholic, did not spend much time with his two sons, so that annual Saturday wood mission was a big deal for us. We got to have the whole day with him, riding around in the station wagon, seeking out boxes, and learning tool use, and we ended up with raw materials for our creative visions.”

I Got Lost in my Book*

January 31, 2022

2021 Walk Award
by Peyton Eberhardt, 6th grade

I got lost in my book. My dad calls me.
Not right now, I wanted to say. I’m lost.
Seated on the couch, I sip my warm tea.
Famine. Hunger. An ocean seldom crossed.
A war. A hero. I turn the pages
With excitement. All stories have an end.
Perhaps I’ll read a book about mages.
I’ll find a book that wants to be my friend.
I search and I search. I cannot find one.
Maybe The Lord of the Rings. The Book Thief.
The library closes soon. I’m not done
Finding my book. I want to yell in grief.
I found my soulmate in a time of need.
I check out the book and begin to read.

*Copyright © 2021 by Peyton Eberhardt. Broadside illustrated by Christian Anne Smith.


January 19, 2022

2021 Walk Award
by Ty Colson, 1st grade

Mama…made me son
I love how she handles things
Wishing upon stars

*Copyright © 2021 by Ty Colson. Broadside illustrated by Christian Anne Smith.

Poet’s bio:
Ty is in first grade, doing school from home and on the road this year, and looks forward to returning to Alderwood Elementary in the fall. He loves art, food, jokes, Lego, and riding his trick scooter. He is currently traveling through the Wild West with his family, collecting stickers to put on his helmet.

Lately, Ty has been creating haiku poems with his mom, Ally, as a way to connect and wind down at bedtime. “My mom is very special to me, and this poem is for her.” This is his first published poem. And, yes, Ally’s heart has indeed melted.


December 30, 2021

Due to unanticipated delays, we’ve been remiss in posting the illustrated placards for the 2021 Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest winning poems. That’s about to be corrected. Over the coming weeks, each of the 25 winning poems will appear in this space and also be linked to the Winners page.

The Contest is deeply grateful to this year’s illustrious judges, Robert Lashley and Elizabeth Vignali, and also extends thanks to the four artists who have added their vision to the poets’ words: Angela Boyle, Megan Carroll, Christian Anne Smith, and Kimberly Wulfestieg.

Meet the artists 2021

June 4, 2021

Each year, the Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest engages a small cadre of artists to interpret and illustrate the winning poems. The resulting placards are displayed on buses, in local libraries, here on The Poetry Department, and in other locations around Whatcom County, Washington. The contest is fortunate to have four devoted artists committed to the project year after year and we reintroduce them here.

As a cartoonist and natural science illustrator, I like to blend my passions together into both nonfiction and science fiction comics. My focus is the natural world: the plants and animals we can see and interact with, or at least potentially interact with. You can get my comics through my StoreEnvy shop and my nature illustrations on mugs and pillows through Society 6. I am currently working on a graphic novel biography of Maria Sibylla Merian and the late 1600s. You can follow my research and read pages early on Patreon. I recently published a young adult sci-fi, Threadbare Memories, and have four volumes of the natural science comic anthology that I run, Awesome ‘Possum. Coming April 2022 from First Second (already available for preorder), I wrote the comic Maker Comics: Live Sustainbly, drawn by Les McClaine. My general social media (Twitter and Instagram) is angelabcomics, and my personal website is angelabcomics.com, which has links to everything, including many more comics. I am also a freelance editor, illustrator, and designer: publication.flyingdodostudio.com. Photo Copyright Abe Olson.

I once told my husband that making art was not an option it was a need. I have to make art, I have to use my hands. I believe in craftsmanship, I research every single one of my ideas, draw several sketches, collect images, words and doodles. I throw out several ideas and save what I think are the very best ones. As an artist I collaborate with those around me, seeking feedback and critique. My illustrations have a minimalist style that leans heavily on mark making. I love strong lines that create a visual impact using simple repetitive shapes. I would describe myself as a mixed media artist as my current works are digital, surface and pattern design, illustration, fabric and clay. I received my BFA from Emily Carr University in Vancouver, BC, and I have made my home in Bellingham for the last eight years. You can buy my prints, including the ones inspired by the poems in this contest, on Society 6 and find out more on meganhcarroll.com and on Instagram @meganhcarroll_arts.

I like to tell stories with art. I love garish and fantastical characters. I enjoy human beings and my art explores stories of human emotion as well as my passion for costumes, colors, textures and intriguing environments. Growing up on the coast of Maine, I was surrounded by stories and images of the region’s folklore. Selkies, mermaids, ghosts and pirates were all believably real entities to me. My childhood fascination with monsters and supernatural beings continues and influences the way I choose to portray people. I also have a need to express with my art. I become inspired, and have worked hard to train myself to go into a sort of trance that allows what’s inside to come out. It’s only later that I can look with any objectivity on something that I’ve created and perhaps get a glimpse of what I was feeling or thinking. It is akin to the way one might analyze a dream. I may start a painting or puppet with a certain image in mind, but I allow the original image to change or even get completely painted over whenever I start to see new things. I am often quite confused about how I am feeling until after I paint, draw, or build things and the truth comes to the surface. This is the way I best communicate with myself. In this way I suppose nearly all my paintings are also portraits of my life. Find out more on christianannesmith.com.

Kimberly Wulfestieg is a paper cutting, rainbow making, poetry loving mother and teacher from Northern California. She is inspired by the beautiful nature and open hearts that surround her. She is a self-taught artist who has always been enamored with the color and texture of paper and collage. She employs a wide array of colored papers, scissors, scalpels, knives, and glue, and uses them in conjunction with details and patience. She runs the Natural Learning Center in Bellingham and loves to share her joy of art and words with the children she works with. Also known as K. Wulfe, more of her work can be seen on Facebook at K. Wulfe and followed on Instagram @kimwulfy.


April 25, 2021

2020 Merit Award
By J. L. Wright

Each day as a teacher, I touch a life.
I hope that it may be softly,
carefully, compassionately;
so, the fruit is not bruised.

The pear in my lunch box has brown spots
but it is still worth eating.

Filled with the warm stink of seventh grade boys,
the classroom emits possibility.

Behind clumsy arms and gangly legs,
each plot how he will
take over the world.

*Copyright 2020 by J. L. Wright. Broadside illustrated by Christian Smith.

– – – – –
NOTE: This is the last Sunday posting of 2020 contest winners. Find links to winning poems from all contest years on the Winners page, and stay tuned to hear about 2021 winners.

Cats, cats*

April 4, 2021

2020 Walk Award
By Hayley Van Ness, Kindergarten

Cats, cats
I love cats
Cats are mine
I love cats
Cats are stripey.

*Copyright 2020 by Hayley Van Ness. Broadside illustrated by Christian Smith.

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