Every year, the Estuary Program holds a poetry contest focused on the bay and watershed. We always include a haiku category, since haiku are traditionally focused on nature. We also include a free verse category with an annual theme. This year, we asked our free-verse-writers to read our State of the Bay report and to focus on any of the issues or ideas discussed in it.
Estuary Program staff and our wonderful guest judges were impressed with the response and the work that we received. A record 121 entries came in before the deadline, and it was very difficult to choose winners. However, the judges’ work is done. You’ll find the winning poems for each category below.
We hope that you will enjoy these pieces and feel the poets’ love of the bay in their words. If you do, please join us next Friday, May 19, at 7:00 PM for a celebratory reading at Coalesce Bookstore in Morro Bay. You’ll hear these poets, as well as two of our three esteemed judges, Patti Sullivan and Jerry Douglas Smith, read their work. (Guest judge Glenna Luschei will not be able to attend, but we will read a poem or two of hers in her absence.)
Without further ado, here are the winning poems for this year.
Adult State of the Bay
Tobey is a former New Yorker who now lives in Morro Bay. She has had her own art gallery, worked in the food and fashion business, taught art history, and traveled widely. She has published numerous articles, essays, and reviews and even ghost written a few books. Tobey is currently working on a trilogy of novels and a collection of nonfiction essays. You can find out more about Tobey on her website.
On the Half Shell
We rode low in the water – I had forgotten
that the sound of wavelets,
lapping and slurping in my ears, could be so
The small motor chugged us over to the oyster rafts,
multiple docks popping and locking with the
hip hop chop
drummed up by the breeze passing over.
The fresh smells of seaweed, salt and spray
cleared our palates.
The sight of lemon wedges holding down
made my mouth water of its own accord.
We were getting the VIP treatment thanks to
memories, my great-grandfather’s name still opening doors
which emerged from icy chests tucked away on the deck.
Such sweet sea fruits
awash in the brine of the bay,
creaming butter-like across my tongue,
and yielding juices like a mermaid’s table grape –
I remembered what it was like to be Venus
eating oysters on a sunny day, in Spring.
Marnie is an avid reader and writer of poetry. A variety of her fiction, nonfiction, and poetry has been published locally.
Meandering through the Zostera
There is a slice of blue
eel grass sways,
pelicans dive near
the tail of steelhead trout
For the viewers,
it is a mirror:
a place we
We become the sway of
blue-green eel grass
blades reaching for
We become the protectors
of this underworld,
for a moment, until
we float to the surface like
in the distance.
Maybe that’s what’s needed.
To drift long enough through
the blue-green maze
so that the heaviness of clouds
lift and blue sky
come tumbling in.
Michael teaches mathematics at Cuesta College and coaches cross country. Several members of the Kinter family entered the contest and enjoyed sharing the process of writing haiku.
Marauding waves crash
Peregrines high, otters low
stern Rock stands sentry
Ted Schade spent 24 years tackling the problem of air pollution at Owens dry lake. He is now retired and he and his wife split their time between Bishop, California, and Morro Bay.
Not fast enough
Striped shore crab scuttles
Heads for the rock’s safe cover
Heron snatches lunch
Youth State of the Bay
Campbell is an eighth-grade student at Los Osos Middle School.
What I Can Only Call Home
It’s a game of chase between me and the wind
I run down the familiar boardwalk
Everything feels distant in the fog’s haze
I know every turn of this path
I know every moss covered tree
I know every loose wooden slate
And yet every time I look upon the estuary
I can only call home
I am surprised by the beauty it holds
I am surprised by nesting heron’s grace
And I am surprised by the luck I have been blessed with
To call this my home
Adam is an eighth-grade student at Los Osos Middle School.
Ripples Through Green Wonder
Guarded by a Sentinel of Stone,
The Estuary sleeps.
A wonder, green and blue,
Home to life of all types,
Garden of the sea,
It smiles beneath the peaceful sun.
But ripples of fear and death
Disturb its pristine waters.
The shadow of humans
Reflect upon the liquid oasis.
As one, we must come together
To preserve our heavenly
Union between ocean and river.
Eliza is an eight-grade student at Los Osos Middle School.
A Fragmented Bay
Bay water runs brown
Eelgrass bed withers and dies
Black brant calls for food
Matthew is an eight-grade student at Los Osos Middle School. He grew up in Los Osos, where he has enjoyed birding with his grandfather. He recently participated in the California State Robotics Tournament and likes to play soccer.
Crabs crawling across
Calm waves wash onto the shore
Peace and Calm at last