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.

Good Neighbors*

March 12, 2023

2022 Merit Award
By Linda Conroy

Where the creek trickles to meet the bay,
the tide creeps in, and the muddy sand
and soil mix and flood, a heron views
the scene, balancing on one long leg.
Two red-beaked oystercatchers poking
plankton, wade with common goldeneyes
at water’s edge. A flock of buffleheads
floats slowly past, with coots of course,
and gulls fly overhead. So many seabirds,
every species different from the rest, yet
they’re here together, bustling, busy
colonizing this small stretch of coast,
content together, reveling in quiet lives
finding no necessity to quack or flap.

*Copyright © 2022 by Linda Conroy. Broadside illustrated by Angela Boyle.

Poet’s bio: Linda Conroy is the self-published author of a poetry collection, Ordinary Signs, and plans to complete another volume shortly. After a long career as a social worker, she now enjoys walking, playing various instruments and singing, as well as creating poems and supporting her friends’ writing endeavors. This poem, “Good Neighbors,” was inspired by watching ducks at the lagoon where Padden Creek enters Bellingham Bay, on a day when so much of the world news was about folk being less than friendly.


March 5, 2023

2022 Merit Award
By Rusty Bower

The sun emanates confounding energy
Unconditional radiation for the duration of its time

It bears perpetual fusion and electromagnetic rupture
yet remains the singular source of luminance and life

while the earth remains among its star it is nurtured
Bonded by immense gravity

Through millennia or a moment
Evolution and complexity arise

I suppose mother
You are like the sun

*Copyright © 2022 by Rusty Bower. Broadside illustrated by Kimberly Wulfestieg.

Poet’s bio: Rusty Bower is 17 years old and in the eleventh grade at Sehome High School in Bellingham. This is Rusty’s first poem, completed for a project in creative writing class for Mother’s Day. “The poem is about how much my mom does for me despite her struggles.”

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.

the new snow*

February 19, 2023

2022 Merit Award
By Luther Allen

fresh as if you’d never seen snow before,
never seen the leaning maple, the galactic spire
of seed clusters, rustblood of dock stems,
or the perfect chickadees.

soft as it takes you in, holy,
like your first step
into a forgotten world
of silence.
gentle in its burden.

never questioning whether
it is a veil or the lifting of a veil.
and you know nothing

other than you are being

being held.

*Copyright © 2022 by Luther Allen. Broadside illustrated by Angela Boyle.

Poet’s bio: Luther Allen is a 74-year-old building designer who lives on Sumas Mountain. He is a previous Boynton winner and has one published book of poetry: The View from Lummi Island. With Judy Kleinberg, he co-edited Noisy Water, Poetry from Whatcom County, WA. This poem is written about the solace in experiencing nature, as a tonic to the pandemic, climate change, forced emigration, intolerance, war, etc., etc., etc. And TV, twitter, and all other forms of vicarious involvement.

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.

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 yahoo.com or phone (360) 714-1306.


May 19, 2022

It’s Thursday, May 19, 2022, and tonight’s the night! Celebrate winning poets and poems for the Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest at 7:00pm on Zoom. Or click here, if you need to join by phone.

Please arrive a few minutes early so the ceremony can start promptly at 7.


May 16, 2022

The committee of the Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest invites you to join the awards celebration for the 2022 contest winners. This year’s ceremony will be held online on Thursday, May 19, 2022, at 7:00pm Pacific.

You’ll hear a few words from the judges, Victor Ortiz and Dayna Patterson, snappy repartee from everyone’s favorite emcee, Kevin Murphy, and then you’ll hear the 10 Walk Award and 15 Merit Award winners read their poems.

Click to join the Awards Ceremony on Zoom, or here, if you need to join by phone.


May 3, 2022

We have winners!

The esteemed judges, Victor Ortiz and Dayna Patterson, have read every submission and made their (always difficult) choices for the winners of the 2022 Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest. Congratulations to:

Margaux Barber, Chloe N. Braunstein, Bliss Goldstein, Maureen Kane, Marley Lotts, Amanda Norenberg, Matthew Stuckey, Alina Tsakhniv, Leslie Wharton, Hayley Van Ness.

Luther Allen, Kathryn Aspinall, Rusty Bower, Linda Conroy, Kyle Heaton, Blake Heuett, Dylan Jacobs, Heidi Kenyon, Timothy Pilgrim, Capucine W. Rougny, Luci Shaw, Sheila Sondik, Vincent Tsan, Joselyn Vasquez, Flannery White.

The list of poets and poems can be found on the Winners page. After the artists have completed their work on the placards, and sometime after the awards ceremony, Thursday, May 19, 2022, 7:00pm on Zoom (details soon), the poems and placards will appear here and will be linked to the poem titles on the Winners page.

We congratulate the winners — and offer a special shout out to all of the poets who had the courage to submit their work to this year’s contest.

at the local library

April 15, 2022

Nice to see POETRY WALK: Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest, The First Five Years on display in such good company at the Bellingham Public Library for National Poetry Month. Edited by Nancy Canyon and Anita K. Boyle, and designed and illustrated by Nancy Canyon, the 152-page collection includes the full text of all winning poems from 2006 through 2010. Copies are still circulating in the Whatcom County Library system and at Western Washington University.

A second five-year collection was published in 2015 and chapbooks of winning poems have been published annually since then. The 2022 chapbook will be available at the time of the awards ceremony, Thursday, May 19, 2022.

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