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.

Spring Poetry Contest

April 6, 2023

Attention residents of Whatcom, Skagit, San Juan, and Island counties: there’s a new poetry contest in town. The Cascadia Daily News invites poets of all ages to submit one poem for the inaugural Spring Poetry Contest. The submission deadline is noon Monday, April 17, 2023, and Maria McLeod will serve as judge, selecting five youth and five adult winners. Read the guidelines here.

final week…

March 24, 2023

Hey, Whatcom County poets, if you’re thinking of submitting a poem to the Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest (and haven’t already done so), now is the time! Friday, March 31, 2023, is the submission deadline and poems received after that date will be disqualified. Be sure to read and follow the guidelines and submit your very best original and unpublished poem.

the Contest is open

March 1, 2023

The Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest is now open for submissions from Whatcom County, Washington, poets.

Here are the important dates for the 2023 contest:
Submissions open: March 1, 2023
Submission deadline: March 31, 2023
In-person submission deadline: 4:00pm, Friday, March 31, 2023
Winners notified by phone or e-mail: by April 30, 2023
Awards ceremony: mid-May

The contest is open to poets of all ages and all levels of writing experience. This year’s judges are Caitlin Scarano and Leslie Wharton.

Please read and follow the guidelines very carefully.

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

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.


February 11, 2023

The judges haven’t been announced and the Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest won’t open for submissions until March 1, 2023, but the guidelines are posted! See the 2023 Contest page, or just download the guidelines here, and keep polishing that poem for a couple more weeks!

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.


October 4, 2022

The Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest committee is seeking new members to assist with organizing the annual countywide event.

Founded in 2006, the Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest is a free annual event held each spring and open to Whatcom County, Washington, residents of all ages and all levels of experience. From each year’s submissions, two judges, respected Washington poets, select 25 winning poems. Walk Award poems are displayed for a year on the Sue Boynton Poetry Walk in front of the Bellingham Public Library (one of a growing number of permanent poetry installations in the U.S.); beautiful placards of both Walk and Merit Award poems are displayed for a year inside Whatcom Transportation Authority buses that serve routes throughout the county. Winning poets are invited to read at a public awards ceremony each May.

The Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest is a part of The Whatcom Poetry Series, a 501c3 non-profit organization.

If you are interested in volunteering, contact Joan Packer at torchlite AT or phone (360) 714-1306.

. . . . .
photo by Erica Reed

on view: 2021 plaques

May 23, 2022

The planter beds in front of the Bellingham Public Library (210 Central Avenue) are decked in their spring finery, thanks to the Birchwood Garden Club. This is a great time to take a short poetry stroll and view the ten Walk Award plaques for the 2021 Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest. And while you’re there, stop in and see the recently remodeled library! (The 2022 plaques will probably be put in place sometime this summer.)

. . . . .
top: poem by Ty Colson
bottom: poem by Peyton Eberhardt


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.

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