Next Generation*

May 21, 2023

2022 Merit Award
By Joselyn Vasquez

Craving inspiration for our next generation
See, we need to save the population
Start some operation
Save this inhumane foundation
Let’s just start a conversation
Not antagonize discrimination
Revive our motivation
to survive this simulation
Immigration, starvation, hesitation
All things stopping us from mass celebration
See, this just my speculation
but shit won’t change without

*Copyright © 2022 by Joselyn Vasquez. Broadside illustrated by Megan Carroll.

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.


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.

2022 Walk Award
By Marley Lotts
Based on “Where I am From” by George Ella Lyon

I am from the forget-me-nots that bloom in our yard
in colors of pink, blue, and purple
I am from our curly willow tree
(Not yet large enough for me to climb)
that matches my hair

I am from soaking in hot springs, the Shinkansen,
safaris, the pyramids, and places beyond
I am from taco salad and toasted O’s
from laughter, jokes and helping hands
I am from clearing storm drains with sticks

I am from loyal Zoe, with long whiskers and short ears
from Sadie, black and purring
and playful Mocha, wagging a fuzzy, curly tail

I am from books, surrounded by piles,
I am from owls, history, and fantasy
breathing in words, exhaling thoughts
I am from music, from fingers on metal strings,
and the peaceful, soothing melody

I am from swimming pools and soccer fields
from a broken tibia caused by a frog’s school day
and palm calluses from swinging on a little red trapeze

*Copyright © 2022 by Marley Lotts. Broadside illustrated by Megan Carroll.

Poet’s bio:
Marley Lotts is a 6th grader who homeschools with the Bellingham Family Partnership Program (BFPP). Marley is an avid reader who devours books of all genres, especially historical fiction. When he is not reading, he enjoys playing soccer with the Whatcom FC Rangers or practicing his viola. “I Am from Taco Salad and Toasted O’s” was inspired by George Ella Lyon’s “Where I Am From.” It originally was started in his writing class. This is Marley’s first published piece of writing.

Retirement Lullaby*

December 25, 2022

2022 Walk Award
By Bliss Goldstein

So it Begins.
This new phase of life calls for me. I strain to hear
my name. It was Worker. Before. Mom. Before. Daughter.
Before. Did I have a name before, before I was born?
Soul. Cactus. Elm. Dog. Red Rover, Red Rover send
Baby Boomer over. As my identity dies, I am living
without a funeral. No more work. No more children.
My posture is stooped. My hair is white. My voice is
hoarse. No matter how loud my cries shout from
inside this body I Am Here, the world is the one
that grows deaf. My ears attune to something old
approaching the earth’s core. It sings me to sleep
with its dirt-saturated lullaby.
The clouds are your cradle, the pine trees your spine,
the ocean to ladle your heart within mine,
with the time you have left you can finally see,
you are divine to your Mother and me
. If I am living
on sacred time, I pray that I will always hear the
selkie call of my own heart’s truest desire. I can find
her in air, water, earth. Without roots I can grow
new ones. Today I will slow. Breathe. Empty my mind
into the cool mountain streams. Today I will bend
towards the waving lavender lining the driveway.
Inhale. Paint my heart purple. Begin. Begin. Begin.
Begin the After.

*Copyright © 2022 by Bliss Goldstein. Broadside illustrated by Megan Carroll.

Poet’s bio:
Bliss Goldstein, MLA, has written for publications from The San Francisco Chronicle to Spider Magazine. She taught writing at Western Washington University and was Founding Editor of Tangents magazine at Stanford University. She and her husband ran a real estate company until recently, and she is now semi-retired. “I wrote Retirement Lullaby out of my surprise at how hard it was to actually go down the retirement path. In some ways it’s the Silent Transition; you have what many people dream of and yet no one tells you how much will have to die in the process of giving birth to this new life. I hope my poem helps others not to feel alone on their retirement journey, while kindling new hope for what lies ahead.”

Spring in Bellingham*

December 11, 2022

2022 Walk Award
By Margaux Barber

A soft wind blows as I
trudge through the field
of Sunnyland Elementary
School. The first
flowers bloom like a
dragon taking flight,
their colors pushing through
the gray. I can feel the
breeze on my cheek like
a million butterflies taking flight.
This is spring in Bellingham.

*Copyright 2022 by Margaux Barber. Broadside illustrated by Megan Carroll.

Poet’s bio:
Margaux is in 3rd grade at Sunnyland Elementary. She’s obsessed with artichokes.

looking back, looking forward

December 10, 2022

As you may know, in addition to being an independent site focused on all-things-poetry in Cascadia, and sometimes beyond, The Poetry Department began, and continues to serve, as the public platform for the annual Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest. That entails announcing events and deadlines, posting guidelines, and each year, posting the winning poems and the artful placards that display them.

The contest is exceedingly grateful to judges Victor Ortiz and Dayna Patterson, who selected the winning poems, and to the four artists who applied their considerable talents to illustrate the placards: Angela Boyle, Megan Carroll, Kimberly Wulfestieg, and Christian Anne Smith.

Tomorrow, Sunday, December 11, 2022, and each of the next 24 Sundays, the text of one of the winning poems will be displayed along with the placard and a brief bio of the poet. Each poem will be linked on the Winners page once it has appeared here.

The Sue Boynton Poetry Contest is a wonderful Whatcom County community project that is run entirely by volunteers. If you care about community poetry and have a few hours available to help, the contest committee is in need of an infusion of new volunteers for a variety of tasks. Please contact Joan Packer at torchlite AT or phone (360) 714-1306.

Spring Melody*

April 9, 2022

2021 Walk Award
by J.L. Wright

Renewal upon the calendar, days in months
unused, value yet unknown: unripened

unpicked fruits seeds split by yellow-green life
emoting from the ground.

Nowhere in particular
this year, this then, that is now.

And above, fresh grass sweet sod on which to grow.
Tangible truths — seeds rooted as the water comes.

I remember time’s measure,
cheerfully, for when spring

spreads out at last, settling into warmth
and stays — how life changes, shifting

from one poignant vision to another, forever
in these eternal fields.

*Copyright © 2021 by J. L. Wright. Broadside illustrated by Megan Carroll.

*inspired by “Fall Song” by Mary Oliver

Ode to Dodge Durango*

March 12, 2022

2021 Walk Award
by Maddie Patterson, 7th grade

You are not that car you see
on all the glamorous adds snuck between the Superbowl
You are not that car
worshipped by the ones with the earth in their eyes
You, piece of grimy mountain man’s metal
Are the car we’d ride wild — trout and trails
You, muddy wheeled trail chugger
Highland gravel path climber
With all your smoke and smog — you
No sleek, sexy white car could be as worshipped
— your cracks filled with green moss
Heavy with pine needles and ripped black leather
You carried our canoe — to the sunset and beyond
You carried our laughing bodies,
across the borders to Utah
You held us like we were your daughters,
as we sat sprawled on your roof
Every hot summer day

No, we want you, tender beast
We want your warm dirt on our feet
Your lights to guide us down the highway at night
Your trunk to carry our tangled fishing poles
Your engine humming against my cheek

*Copyright © 2021 by Maddie Patterson. Broadside illustrated by Megan Carroll.

Sunset Sea*

March 8, 2022

2021 Merit Award
by Isabella Nelson, 7th grade

The sand so white, like a painting in my palm
Trees blowing in the crisp salty air
Sounds of waves overlapping each other
A ball of yellow light falling beneath the ocean waves
Glowing in hues of orange and pink
Shading into blues and blacks
Looking out you forget
Every trouble, and every worry
Smelling the salty air
And feeling the white sand beneath your toes
Hearing the mesmerizing sound of a riptide
So dangerous but yet, so peaceful
Seeing the lights fade in the background
You get up to leave, and you don’t care
That the sand is stuck to your toes
That the smell of salt has soaked into your hair
You don’t care about anything else in the world
When you walked onto that beach
You left behind every worry or care in the world
When you step off that beach
They start coming back
Like a flu you never quite got over
But you are tired, and you are in peace
And that peace covers up those worries like a blanket
Soothing them into no more then faint memories
For now, you sleep in peace

*Copyright © 2021 by Isabella Nelson. Broadside illustrated by Megan Carroll.

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