May 12, 2017

Morro Bay Estuary Poetry Contest 2017 Winners



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.

Russ_White_Credit State of the Bay 2017

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


First Place

Tobey Crockett

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

paper plates

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

and oysters,

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.


Second Place

Marnie Parker

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

amongst threatening


Water swells,

eel grass sways,

pelicans dive near

the tail of steelhead trout

meandering through

the estuary.

For the viewers,

it is a mirror:

a place we

wash away




We become the sway of


blue-green eel grass

blades reaching for

the sun.

We become the protectors

of this underworld,

for a moment, until

we float to the surface like

drift wood

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

and sunlight

come tumbling in.


Adult Haiku


First Place

Michael Kinter

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

Marauding waves crash

Peregrines high, otters low

stern Rock stands sentry


Second Place

Ted Schade

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


First Place

Campbell Ellery

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

Second Place

Adam Rainbolt

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.

The Estuary.


Youth Haiku


First Place

Eliza Black

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


Second Place

Matthew McCauley

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.


Morro Estuary

Crabs crawling across

Calm waves wash onto the shore

Peace and Calm at last


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