February 13, 2017
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 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 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.
November 6, 2014
Though Ella Rhoads Higginson is little known today, over a century ago she was the most influential Pacific Northwest literary writer in the United States. People across the nation and around the world were first introduced to the Pacific Northwest when they read Higginson’s award-winning poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. Higginson’s descriptions of the majestic mountains, vast forests, and scenic waters of the Puget Sound presented the then-remote, unfamiliar Pacific Northwest to eager readers. Her celebrated writings were the very first to prominently place the Pacific Northwest on the literary map of the United States.
In addition to works of fiction and nonfiction, Higginson was the author of four books of poetry (which contained over three hundred poems). Her poems appeared regularly in leading periodicals of the day alongside works by other renowned authors. Many of her poems were set to music and performed internationally by celebrated dramatic singers such as Enrico Caruso. And in 1931, Higginson was chosen to be the first Poet Laureate of Washington State.
In her day, Higginson and her writing attracted international literary attention to the Pacific Northwest. However, by the time she died, in 1940, both she and her work were almost completely forgotten. They remain virtually forgotten today. It is my project to reintroduce Higginson’s engaging writings to a new audience of appreciative readers and to begin to reestablish her once-celebrated literary reputation.
To whet your poetry appetite, I offer a sonnet by Higginson that pays homage to our corner of the world:
One long, low, narrow strip of glistening sands
Flung out into the Georgian Gulf; one wide,
Blue sweep of sunlit waves on every side.
Around it reach the hills, like emerald bands,
And farther, higher, more majestic, stands
Mount Baker, chaste and white—the ocean’s bride.
With noiseless feet the pearl-topped waters glide,
Pushing each other up the black tide-lands;
Here wild, sweet roses, like an amethyst cloud,
Make pink the air and scent the languorous breeze
That wantons over these far western seas;
And when the sun drops downward, flaming, proud,
This stretch of water, petaled fold on fold,
Seems one great crimson poppy, fleck’d with gold.
To learn more, read Dean Kahn’s article, WWU professor hopes to resurrect Ella Higginson’s legacy, in the Bellingham Herald, visit The Ella Higginson Project and watch this C-SPAN Interview with Dr. Laura Laffrado about The Ella Higginson Recovery Project.
On Thursday, November 13, 2014, 10:00am-Noon, in Old City Hall (Bellingham, WA), the Whatcom Museum will present Laura Laffrado discussing Ella Higginson’s rise to international acclaim and championship of literacy in her home of Bellingham in the early 20th century. The talk is free to the public.
Laura Laffrado, award-winning Professor of English at Western Washington University, has published widely on American literature. Her latest book, Selected Writings of Ella Higginson, will be published in spring 2015.