Jul 16, 2021

Morro Bay Estuary Poetry Contest 2021: Winning Poems


This week, we are happy to share the winning poems for our 2021 Morro Bay Estuary Poetry Contest! Many thanks to our winning authors and to everyone who entered this year’s contest. We are grateful to you for sharing your love of words and the Morro Bay estuary. Many thanks to our generous and talented judges, Marnie Parker, Patti Sullivan, and Kevin Patrick Sullivan.

Please enjoy.

Estuarine 17: Youth Haiku 8-12

First Place

By Evelyn Nannie

Student at Family Partnership Charter Middle School



Like yen and like yang

Where two halves become one whole

Our estuary


Second Place

By Ben Hague

Student at Morro Bay Montessori Family Partnership Charter School


Birds of the sea

Batrays gliding by

soaring deep underwater

Imposing… giant… fish!



Estuarine 17: Youth Haiku 13-17


By Jessica Maguire

Paso Robles High School


Five bright orange arms

a starfish amongst the rocks

hello little one!


Finding Solace: Youth Free Verse 8-12


By Skyler James Elsea

Morro Bay, California


My Happy Place

I like to row my boat

I see lots of cool animals

Fish, otters, crabs, and sharks

It is fun at the estuary


Estuarine 17: Adults (18 and up) Haiku

First Place

By Shari Crane Fox

Grass Valley, California


Dusk brushes the bay.

The cry of a Short-eared Owl—

willow thicket hush.


Second Place

By Adam Miller

San Luis Obispo, California


The pelican glides
Indolent pond turtles sun
An oak leaf flutters


Third Place

By Iris Yu

Daly City, California


Take a beach snapshot—

it’s never the same thing twice.

But waves come again.


Finding Solace: Adults (18 and up) Free Verse

First Place

By Monica Stillman

Avila Beach, California


Walking the Shore


I have missed you this past year

I have carried on for you, knowing

you would not approve of me

sitting in the dark in sorrow

And so I walked the shore –

watching larger, solitary birds

lift on kite-like wings and fly to sea

while crowds of smaller birds remained

scurrying to and fro with the waterline,

gleaning, moving together in one fluid form

On warm days I removed my shoes

to trace the rippled sands to where

the currents lift them, rolling,

grain by grain, and carry them away

Or walked toward land

to where the sand gives way

to softer mud that settles in the quiet

and let it pull my feet as if

to draw me, too, to rest

And I felt compelled to track

the lifeforms hidden

beneath the surface of the water

knobs of kelp, bright eyes

of smooth-skinned seals,

otters’ furry faces and busy hands

These creatures reminded me

of you, how I have carried you

with me everywhere,

and you should picture me,

when you do,

walking at the shore


Second Place

By Norma Wightman

Morro Bay, California


Afloat on a King Tide        


Paddles dip effortlessly;

hulls reflect silhouettes

on silver-surfaced water.

Tide carries us toward

avocets, godwits, dunlins,

and tiny sandpipers sardined

on fast-disappearing ridges

of pickleweed as the king

tide advances.


We relax to the slow incoming

waters,  revel in nature

as two bald eagles wing

overhead, circling a banquet

of shorebirds. Splash!

America’s symbol of majesty

lands on a snag clutching a

coot in golden talons. Mud hen

is its common name, but this

eagle lacks discriminating taste,

shears off the breast with

scimitar-sharp claws, discards

the rest to a waiting gull.


We paddle on as gray clouds

threaten; roil from silver

to charcoal. One blue slot

of sky remains amid the clouds.

Subdued light darkens

nature’s drama as we idle

on a changing tide


Third Place

By Sally B. Demarest

Los Osos, California




After sheltering at home

For months, I decide to kayak.

I launch from the blue pier,

Staying six feet away

From other people as I drag my white boat

To the water.

I point the nose towards Shark Inlet,

The watery cul-de-sac

At the Southern-most tip

Of Morro Bay.

I have heard leopard sharks live there.


I think how much I would like to see one

In the wild.

The paddling pinches my back.

It seems sitting at the computer so much—

Teaching, grading, Zooming—

Has hunched my neck, strained my shoulders,

But I keep going, staying near the shore,

Peering into grasses, trying to glimpse

A fish or a bird.

Then I reach the inlet

where it sits in the wind shadow

of the dunes.

Still as a mirror, it’s like a different body of water


In the silence, I can hear each drop of water

That drips from the tips

of my paddles.

A product of my time,

I pull my phone from my pocket to take

A few photos. I think about how

I will post a picture, crafting the clever caption:

“Now, this is social distancing!”

But this doesn’t feel like distancing; it feels like

Drawing near. After months

Of staying away from people and places,

Here, in Shark Inlet, I get as close

To everything

As I can.


Estuary Program note: The poem, “Communion,” alludes to the experience of feeling emotional and intellectual closeness to the bay and its wildlife while enjoying time on the water. We encourage this! However, we do not encourage physical proximity to wildlife–including both plants and animals. To stay safe and avoid harm to wildlife, please keep your distance. If a bird, otter, seal, or any other animal looks up to watch you, you’re too close. For more information, check out this blog on responsible wildlife viewing by Gena Bentall of Sea Otter Savvy.

Help protect and restore the Morro Bay estuary

Thank you for your support!