meet the judges

February 1, 2022

The Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest will be open for submissions March 1 – March 31, 2022. The Contest is honored to have two distinguished judges for this year’s contest: Victor Ortiz and Dayna Patterson.

Victor Ortiz, Pushcart Prize nominee, has written two chapbooks — Into Breath and Into Borrego Valley — and has coauthored four multimedia books with mezzotint artist Mikio Watanabe. His work has been anthologized numerous times and his poetry has appeared internationally in such journals as Modern Haiku, Frogpond, Blithe Spirit, The Heron’s Nest, Haiku Canada Review, and The Mainichi. Ortiz currently serves as a judge on the Touchstone Distinguished Books Award panel.

Dayna Patterson
is a fungophile, macrophotography enthusiast, and textile artist. She’s the author of Titania in Yellow (Porkbelly Press, 2019) and If Mother Braids a Waterfall (Signature Books, 2020). Honors include the Association for Mormon Letters Poetry Award and the 2019 #DignityNotDetention Poetry Prize judged by Ilya Kaminsky. Her creative work has appeared recently in EcoTheo, Kenyon Review, and Whale Road Review. She’s the founding editor of Psaltery & Lyre and a co-editor of Dove Song: Heavenly Mother in Mormon Poetry. In her spare time, she curates Poetry + Fungus (Instagram @poetry_plus_fungus), a pairing of poetry books and species from the fungal world.

meet the judges: 2021

January 4, 2021

While the Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest won’t open for submissions until March 2021 and the guidelines have not yet been updated, the judges have been selected and we are pleased to introduce them here.

A 2016 Jack Straw Fellow, Artist Trust Fellow, and nominee for a Stranger Genius Award, Robert Lashley has had work published in The Seattle Review of Books, NAILED, Poetry Northwest, McSweeney’s, and The Cascadia Review. His poetry was also featured in such anthologies as Many Trails to The Summit, Foot Bridge Above The Falls, Get Lit, Make It True, and It Was Written. His previous books include THE HOMEBOY SONGS (Small Doggies Press, 2014), and UP SOUTH (Small Doggies Press, 2017). His next book, THE GREEN RIVER VALLEY, will be published by Blue Cactus Press in 2021.
Elizabeth Vignali is the author of three chapbooks, the most recent of which is Endangered [Animal] (Floating Bridge Press 2019), and the poetry collection House of the Silverfish (Unsolicited Press 2021). Her work has appeared in Willow Springs, Cincinnati Review, Mid-American Review, Tinderbox, The Literary Review, and others. She lives in the Pacific Northwest, where she works as an optician, produces the Bellingham Kitchen Session reading series, and serves as poetry editor of Sweet Tree Review.

The 2021 Contest guidelines will be posted on the 2021 Contest page as soon as they are available. Meanwhile, please enjoy the Sunday postings of the 2020 winning poems…and, if you happen to live in Whatcom County, Washington, start planning your submission.

meet the judges: 2020

January 4, 2020

Each year, the Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest selects two distinguished poets to serve as judges. With hundreds of poems to read by poets of all ages and skill levels, it’s a challenging job. The judges each read every poem and then discuss their choices before coming up with the year’s contest winners.

The contest committee is very pleased to introduce this year’s judges: Roger Gilman and Kami Westhoff.

Roger Gilman is poetry editor for Adventures Northwest, winner of a National Endowment of the Humanities Fellowship, and of several Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest prizes. He teaches classes at the Hugo House Literary Center in Seattle. His latest poems are in Poetry Northwest. He is former Dean of Fairhaven College and Professor of the Arts and Humanities at Western Washington University.

Kami Westhoff is the author of Sleepwalker, which won Minerva Rising’s Dare to Be Contest, and Your Body a Bullet, co-written with Elizabeth Vignali. Her poetry and prose have appeared in journals including Booth, Carve, Hippocampus, Meridian, Passages North, The Pinch, Phoebe, Redivider, Waxwing, and West Branch. She teaches creative writing at Western Washington University where she serves as faculty adviser for Jeopardy Magazine.

The guidelines are now posted on the 2020 Contest page. Submissions don’t open until March 1, 2020, but it’s never too early to study the guidelines and start drafting your poem.

Meet the judges!

January 17, 2019

The 14th annual Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest will accept single-poem submissions from Whatcom County residents during the month of March 2019.

This year’s contest judges are Jessica Lohafer and Christopher Patton.

Jessica Lohafer is a Bellingham writer whose work has appeared in Whatcom Magazine, The Sweet Tree Review, Drunk in the Midnight Choir, Nailed Magazine, and Red Sky: Poetry on the Global Epidemic of Violence Against Women. Her collection of poem, What’s Left to Be Done, was published by Radical Lunchbox Press in 2009. She received a master’s degree in fine arts in poetry from Western Washington University in 2014. More at Jessica Lohafer. (Photo: Mallory Opel)

Christopher Patton is a Bellingham poet, translator, and cross-genre artist. His most recent book, Unlikeness is Us, published by Gaspereau in 2018, is a volume of translations from Old English. Video poems from his work-in-progress SCRO have been exhibited at Whatcom Museum and the Minnesota Center for Book Arts. He teaches at Western Washington University and blogs at The Art of Compost.

There is no cost to enter the contest. Twenty-five winners are chosen and are invited to read their poems at a free public awards ceremony on Thursday, May 16, 2019, at the Bellingham Cruise Terminal. Ten Walk Award winning poems are displayed in front of the Bellingham Public Library, and are displayed on WTA buses along with 15 Merit Award winning poems. Winning poems and placards are also presented on The Poetry Department and may be displayed at libraries and other locations around the county.

To submit entries during March, please review and follow the guidelines on the 2019 Contest page and find additional information on the FAQs page.

Poems may be submitted in a variety of ways:

  • Mail to Boynton Poetry Contest, PO Box 1192, Bellingham, WA 98227.
  • Email to (Word document preferred; please title document with the title of the poem).
  • Deliver to Mindport Exhibits, 210 W. Holly St., Bellingham, from noon to 6pm Wednesday-Friday, 10am to 5pm Saturday, or noon to 4pm Sunday.
  • Deliver to Film is Truth, inside Allied Arts Building, 1419 Cornwall Ave., Suite B, Bellingham, from noon to 10pm daily.

meet the judges!

January 5, 2018

The 2018 Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest won’t start accepting submissions for until March 1, 2018, but in anticipation of that date, you might want to acquaint yourself with the two distinguished poets who will serve as the 2018 contest judges: Richard Widerkehr and Jane Wong.

Richard Widerkehr’s new book of poems, In The Presence Of Absence, recently came out from MoonPath Press. He earned his M.A. from Columbia University and won two Hopwood first prizes for poetry at the University of Michigan. He has one other collection of poems, The Way Home (Plain View Press), and three chapbooks, including Her Story of Fire (Egress Studio Press). Tarragon Books published his novel, Sedimental Journey. Recent work has appeared in Rattle, Arts & Letters, Bellevue Literary Review, and Measure. Other work is forthcoming in Atlanta Review, The MacGuffin, and Chiron Review.

Jane Wong’s poems can be found in Best American Poetry 2015, Pleiades, American Poetry Review, Third Coast, and others. A Kundiman fellow, she is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize and fellowships from the U.S. Fulbright Program, the Fine Arts Work Center, and Bread Loaf. She is the author of Overpour (Action Books, 2016).

The judges for the 2017 Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest are Jacob Hartsoch and Laura Laffrado. As always, after submissions are closed (March 31) the judges will both read every single poem that is submitted (without knowing the name of the poet) and will then work together to select the Walk and Merit winners.

Jacob HartsochJacob Hartsoch grew up in a small Montana town and was inspired by Richard Hugo’s poetry about local places he knew and loved. His work has been selected three times in the annual Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest and he is the recipient of the Gonzaga University Costello Award in poetry. He lives in Bellingham with his wife and two young boys and is currently excited about wind, water, and reducing his family’s carbon footprint. Photo by Sheila Carson.

Laura LaffradoLaura Laffrado’s current work is focused on returning forgotten Pacific Northwest writer Ella Rhoads Higginson to literary prominence. Her most recent book is Selected Writings of Ella Higginson: Inventing Pacific Northwest Literature (2015). Laffrado is also author of Uncommon Women: Gender and Representation in Nineteenth-Century US Women’s Writing (2009, 2015) and other books and essays. She is Professor of English at Western Washington University.

This year’s guidelines are posted on the 2017 Contest page.

meet the judges

March 5, 2016

This year’s judges for the Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest are Luther Allen and Luci Shaw. As always, after submissions are closed (March 31) the judges will both read every single poem that is submitted (without knowing the name of the poet) and then work together to select the Walk and Merit winners.

Luther Allen 2015sLuther Allen writes poems and designs buildings from Sumas Mountain. He writes poetry to make sense of his place in the world, a sort of spiritual practice. He facilitates SpeakEasy, a community poetry reading series in Bellingham, and is co-editor of Noisy Water, a poetry anthology featuring 101 Whatcom County poets. His collection of poems, The View from Lummi Island, can be found at

Luci ShawLuci Shaw, a poet and essayist, is Writer in Residence at Regent College, Vancouver. She has authored over 35 books. Widely anthologized, her writing has appeared in Image, Weavings, Books & Culture, The Christian Century, Relief, Rock & Sling, Ruminate, Radix, Crux, The Southern Review, Stonework, Mars Hill, Nimble Spirit, Poetry East and others. She is a 2013 recipient of the Denise Levertov Award. Her most recent book of poetry is Scape. Coming in April, 2016, Sea Glass: New & Selected Poems (WordFarm) and The Thumbprint in the Clay (essays, IVP). For further information visit

introducing the judges

March 1, 2015

The Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest is now open for submissions from Whatcom County poets of all ages and experience. Each year, two accomplished poets who live in Whatcom County are invited to judge the submissions and select the 10 Walk Awards and 15 Merit Awards. This year’s judges are Jeanne Yeasting and Caleb Barber.

JEANNE YEASTING is a writer and visual artist. She teaches creative writing and literature at Western Washington University. Her most recent publications are poems in Cirque and the Mohave River Review.

Caleb BarberCALEB BARBER holds a BA in English from Western Washington University, as well as an MFA in poetry from the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts. He lives in Bellingham, Washington, where he works at an aerospace machine shop. He has been widely published in literary journals, notably in Fulcrum, New Orleans Review, Los Angeles Review, and he was featured in Poet Lore. His first book, Beasts and Violins, is available from Red Hen Press. The title poem appeared in Best American Poetry 2009.
. . . . .
Caleb Barber photo by Brian Davidson

meet the judges…

February 13, 2013

The Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest, which will begin accepting submissions on March 1, 2013, is very pleased to introduce this year’s contest judges, Bruce Beasley and Mary Gillilan.

Bruce BeasleyBruce Beasley is the author of seven collections of poems, most recently Theophobia. He has won numerous awards for his poetry as well as fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Artist Trust of Washington and three Pushcart Prizes in poetry. Beasley grew up in Macon, Georgia, and now lives in Bellingham, Washington, where he is a professor of English at Western Washington University. Photo: BOA Editions

Mary GillilanMary Gillilan is editor-in-chief of Clover, A Literary Rag, and leads writers groups at the Independent Writers’ Studio in Bellingham. She received a Governor’s award for editing a local history in Washington State, and has won awards for her writing from the Pacific Northwest Writer’s Conference and the Seattle Times. She is author of the novel Tibet, A Writer’s Journal and is currently working on a sequel.

For Contest guidelines, please visit the 2013 Contest page.

The Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest is enormously pleased to introduce our two judges for the 2012 contest, Jeffrey Morgan and Betty Scott.

Jeffrey MorganJeffrey Morgan is the author of Crying Shame, published by Blazevox Books. His writing has appeared in Cutbank, Diagram, Fourteen Hills, La Petite Zine and Spinning Jenny. He holds an MFA from Penn State University and teaches at Borough of Manhattan Community College. Jeffrey Morgan is spending the 2011/2012 academic year in beautiful Bellingham, Washington. You can visit him online at his blog Thin Nimbus.

Betty ScottBetty Scott is an award-winning poet, instructor, spiritual seeker, activist and editor. She holds a Master’s in Creative Writing from WWU and teaches oral and written communication at Bellingham Technical College and poetry workshops at Whatcom Community College’s community education program. Betty Scott’s writing has appeared in Bellowing Arc, Bellingham Review, Borders, fathoms, The Kumquat Challenge, Jeopardy, Labyrinth, Soundings Review, A World of Words and at She was featured at the World Poetry International Festival in Richmond, B.C., Canada, and was a 2010 award winner at Surrey International Writer’s Conference.

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