Apr 17, 2020

Morro Bay Estuary Poetry Contest 2020: Adult Winners Announced


What a long, strange spring it’s been! One of the bright spots for us at the Estuary Program has been reading the entries for this year’s Morro Bay Estuary Poetry Contest: A National Treasure in Words. We always love reading what you’ve written about the bay, its wildlife, and what this special place means to you. This year, your words and the imagery you conjured took on even more significance as we looked for some extra light and connection to the natural world. Thank you to everyone who entered the contest for sharing your unique perspective and your presence, through your words, with us.

This year, our Morro Bay Estuary Poetry contest asked writers to pen haiku about any aspect of the Morro Bay estuary that called to them as well as free verse poems about any issue discussed in our 2020 State of the Bay report. Writers from down the road, across the county, in the Central Valley, and even from overseas entered the contest. It was an honor to read each and every entry.

You will find the winning poems written by adult entrants below.* If you enjoy reading them here, we hope you’ll join us for our celebratory contest reading online in late May, in partnership with Coalesce Bookstore. (Date to be determined. Please check our Poetry Contest 2020 page for details in mid-May.)

*Due to school closures and the transition to online classes, we have extended the deadline for our student writers through Friday, May 1. We look forward to reading their entries after that date. Student winners will be announced on this blog by the end of May. Please stay tuned to our Poetry Contest 2020 page for details. 

Estuarine 17: Haiku focused on the Morro Bay estuary

Honorable Mention: Jude Clement

Resident of Los Osos, California


Lacy bird foot prints

tiny volcanoes in sand

morning low tide walk


Honorable Mention: Corrina Veesart

Resident of Los Osos, California


Under kelp forests,

lissome bat rays glide hither;

life’s labyrinth teems.

Third place: Michael Kinter

Resident of Morro Bay, California


Seagulls croon in flight

Otters coo on eelgrass beds

Rhythmic tides conduct


Second place: Ted Schade

Resident of Morro Bay, California


Orange morning sun

Warms flock of black brants grazing

On dancing eelgrass


First place: Nicole “Kestrel” Dale

Resident of Los Osos, California


Glory to Mudflats!

Worms, Snails and Ghost Shrimp, oh my!

The stench is divine.


State of the Bay 2020: Free verse

Second place: George Asdel

Resident of Atascadero, California


The thunder of

crashing waves,


The rush of activities,

the crush of freeways,


Now the calls

of ten thousand birds,

the wingbeats

of ducks, loons, pelicans, egrets;

turquoise, gold, brown, and white,

the silver flash of fish breaking

the peaceful surface,

cutthroat trout, salmon, perch,

is the music of this Estuary.

The sway of eelgrass

dancing its timeless dance

in the swirling of

salty tides and sweet

water tumbling down

ancient volcanoes

after Spring storms

is the life and

spirit of this



First place: Monica Stillman

Resident of Avila Beach, California


The ocean breathes

at the pace of the waves.

Winds so vast they follow

the curve of Earth

comb fish and kelp

with waves that migrate

toward the land,

feel the shoaling rim

and rise, trough and crest

curl and plunge,

swash chasing

plover sanderling,

lifted spray returned

to the wind.

The bay breathes

at the pace of the tides.

Pulled taut by hanging

moon, ebb’s silver

channels ribbon

through waves of grass

and settled silt,

and pause . . .

until the turning

when the flood returns,

a wash that fills

the Bay to brimming,

thirsty blades quenched,

clamped shells reopen,

parched flats loosen

their cracks,

and the bay’s full

arms gather drops

of sunlight.

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