May 26, 2023

In case you missed it, the Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest awards ceremony this week was a rollicking success. In a contest year notable for its first in-person awards ceremony since 2019 and its unusually small organizing committee, the standing-room-only event went without a hitch and much audience appreciation.

Special thanks to this year’s judges, Caitlin Scarano and Leslie Wharton; to emcee Kevin Murphy; to the contest committee: Sarah King, Rachel Mehl, Joan Packer, Matthew Stuckey, and Flannery White; to the artists who illustrated the placards for the winning poems: Angela Boyle, Megan Carroll, Christian Anne Smith, and Kimberly Wulfestieg; to everyone who helped move chairs, including Dean Kahn and Matthew Scott; to Susan J. Erickson for the gorgeous flowers; and last, but definitely not least, THE POETS!!

This Sunday, May 28, the last of the 2022 winning poems will be featured here on The Poetry Department. On Sunday, June 11, and each of the next 19 Sundays, we will feature one of the 2023 winning poems, which will then be linked to the Winners page. Your Likes and Comments are greatly appreciated.

If you live in Whatcom County, Washington, and you believe poetry is important, the contest committee welcomes new members. It’s not a demanding job (unless it falls on the shoulders of only one or two people) but it’s definitely rewarding. Interested? Drop a note to BoyntonPoetryContest [at] hotmail.com.

At the awards ceremony, each of the judges has a chance to make a few comments. Leslie Wharton noted that so many lines of poetry continued to run through her mind that she decided to make a poem of them. Her cento poem, below, uses a line from each of the 2023 winning poems. Watch for them in the coming months.

Sue C. Roll

Because when stars collect, they look like you
what my younger sister once found most beautiful
as she sleeps, her lips begin to bloom
You might say there’s nothing other-worldly
except for a sapphire hole releasing heaven
Then she looks up, thinks, falling star?
You are acres of berry bushes full of fruit
who feels with kindness for all people
There are so many kinds
runaway combat boots, party shoes tripping
We will hug each other ‘til we are numb
hoping not to die
Silvers — Coho Salmon — swim above concrete
creeks had swollen like the pulse in her veins
In the unknown, all is known
random events explode into existence
reminding me that things will fall down from time to time
but I am not ready to leave
moving fast and joyfully
I feel peace

. . . . .
photo by Flannery White
“Sue C. Roll” cento assembled by Leslie Wharton

Awards Ceremony!

May 17, 2023

Next Wednesday, May 24, 2023, at 7:00pm, the Bellingham Cruise Terminal (355 Harris Avenue in Fairhaven) will again come to life with the sound of poetry. The Awards Ceremony for the 2023 Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest is free and open to the public. The evening will be hosted by everyone’s favorite emcee, Kevin Murphy, with comments from the judges, Caitlin Scarano and Leslie Wharton, and the year’s award-winning poems read by their poets. Please come celebrate community poetry at this heartwarming event.

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.

Dress Poetry

June 6, 2020

Back in early February, when it seemed like a gallery exhibit was entirely feasible, we posted a call for poems about dresses. In the intervening months, somehow, many dresses have emerged from their layers of tissue paper, shaken out their wrinkles, and offered themselves as poetry touch points.

Though the Allied Arts gallery in downtown Bellingham is not open for business-as-usual, there are dresses and poems in the window through June 27, 2020, and you can also read the poems and see photos of the dresses (and some of the poets and their muses) on the Allied Arts gallery page.

Special thanks to curator/poet Leslie Wharton.

call to poets

February 5, 2020

Poet and curator Leslie Wharton invites poets to submit work for “Dress Poetry,” a juried show to be held in the Allied Arts Gallery in June 2020.

“Dresses and poetry hold memory and can express to the world who we are. In celebration of changing norms on wearing dresses, and the 100th anniversary of suffragettes winning the right to vote, pull those pretty, powerful, dresses and poems out of the closet and join us for this exciting show.

Please pass this call along to poets, dressmakers, and artists, especially to anyone who may display a pow-wow dress, a transgender first or last dress ever worn, or any poem that moves a reader into learning about diverse experiences. We are eager to help duplicate this show in other towns if a local is willing to take the lead and find a gallery.”

Deadline for submission: Saturday, April 4, 2020
Exhibit dates: June 5 – 27, 2020
Complete guidelines here.

strong voices

January 2, 2019

You’re invited to look and listen as a group of poets offer their words to accompany the Women Empowering Women exhibit at Allied Arts in Bellingham on Sunday, January 6, 2019, at 4:00pm. Featured poets include Nancy Canyon, Lois Holub, Jessica Lee, Maria McLeod, Rainbow Medicine-Walker, Dayna Patterson, Carla Shafer, Kami Westhoff, and Leslie Wharton.

The opening reception for the exhibit will be held during Gallery Walk, Friday, January 4, 6:00-8:00pm. The participating artists (Francie Allen, Mary Jane Davis, Patti Fairbanks, LaVera Langeman, Erin Libby, and Leslie Wharton) will also host a film and fundraiser for the Cascadia International Women’s Film Festival on Thursday, January 17, 6:00-8:00pm, and a Tea Party in honor of the Women’s March on Saturday, January 19, at 2:00pm. The exhibit will remain on view through Saturday, January 26, 2019.

2018 Merit Award
By Leslie Wharton

Avoiding whirling eddies
recirculating worries
torrents of to-dos
swirling self-doubt
Poem swims.

She rests in calm water
next to fast current
watches for a word
flash of muse
enticing nymph
anything to nibble on.

Hidden in shadows
She maneuvers
beyond logjams
past traumas
political debris.

Poem rises
hardly edited
never spoken
barely noticed.
Concentric circles
ripple outwards.

. . . . .
Leslie Wharton is a caregiver for extraordinary elders, currently a retired philosophy professor. You can find her writing in Phoenix Rising: Stories of Remarkable Women, in the upcoming 2018 Red Wheelbarrow Writers anthology, and chapbooks around Bellingham. She is proud of organizing poets and speakers for Bellingham Women’s Marches.

Leslie caught the poem, Fish Is Plural for Fish, while fishing on the Wynoochee River. Despite the poem’s claims, it was heavily edited with help from a friend, Ann Morris.

. . . . .
*Copyright 2018 by Leslie Wharton. Broadside illustrated by Angela Boyle.

poetry riches

September 27, 2017

This weekend is full of poetry treasure…

On Friday, September 29, in Bellingham, Poetry at St. Paul’s opens with a presentation by Gregory Wolfe, editor of Image Journal, followed by a reading by poet Luci Shaw. Events begin at 7:00pm at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.

Also on Friday, September 29, in Deming, Frida and Friends features Susan J. Erickson reading from her book of poems, Lauren Bacall Shares a Limousine, joined by poets Lois Holub, Stephanie Hopkinson, J.I. Kleinberg, C.J. Prince, and Leslie Wharton. The reading begins a 7:00pm at the Deming Library.

Also on Friday, September 29, 2017, in Seattle, Meghan McClure and Michael Schmeltzer will read from their new collaborative volume, A Single Throat Opens (Black Lawrence Press). Join them at their book launch at 7:00pm at Open Books.

On Saturday, September 30, Poetry at St. Paul’s continues with a trio of workshops offered by Jennifer Bullis, Luci Shaw, and Caitlin Thomson. Registration is required. Workshops run concurrently, 1:30-3:00pm, at St. Paul’s.

Later on Saturday, September 30, head back to Open Books in Seattle for a launch party for Hailey Higdon’s chapbook, Rural (Drop Leaf Press), featuring readings by the author, Sarah Heady, and Tanya Holtland.

This is just a sampling of the weekend’s goings-on. Enjoy!

Frida and Friends in Deming!

September 14, 2017

Frida and Friends
Friday, September 29, 2017, 7:00pm

at the Deming Library

Frida Kahlo, the dynamic Mexican painter, is recognized today for her artistic talent and for her courage in dealing with adversity. This reading will gather a group of local women poets to read their work and celebrate strong women. Susan J. Erickson, the featured reader, will share work from her recently published book of poems in women’s voices, Lauren Bacall Shares a Limousine, which includes poems in the voice of Frida. (Frida “herself” will make a guest appearance at the reading!)

Please join the following poets in celebrating with Susan J. Erickson, Frida and Friends: Lois Holub, Stephanie Hopkinson, J.I. (Judy) Kleinberg, C.J. Prince, and Leslie Wharton.

PS: Susan will offer one of her handcrafted collage cards with images of some of the women from the book with each purchase of her book.

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