Morro Bay Estuary Poetry Contest Winners 2015


Left, Michael Blanchard, Youth Haiku Runner-up looks over the estuary. Right, Eva Moylan's illustration of a Great Egret to accompany her runner-up poem "The Great Egret"
Left, Michael Blanchard, Youth Haiku runner-up, looks out  over the estuary. Right, Eva Moylan’s illustration of a great egret  accompanies her runner-up poem “The Great Egret”


Thanks to poets from Morro Bay, Los Osos, San Luis Obispo, and beyond, we received almost 100 entries for this year’s poetry contest! We appreciated these poets’ passion for the estuary; their haiku and free verse poems captured the spirit of the bay, and the high quality of the work made it hard for our judges to choose winners. After reading and rereading each piece, the judges have made their decisions. The winner and runner-up poems follow. You’ll find information about the judges at the bottom of the page.


Adult Free Flowing


Winner: Marnie L. Parker, “Blue Sanctuary”

Marnie is an avid reader and writer of poetry. A variety of her fiction, nonfiction, and poetry has been published locally. Marnie wrote “Blue Sanctuary” after house-sitting for friends near the water’s edge. The poem was the first one that she created this year. She is pleased that it was chosen and captured the spirit of the Morro Bay Estuary.


Blue Sanctuary

The valuable moment:

River, air, and ocean empty

Into blue estuary,

While sea otters usher

Fellow estuarians:

Steelhead trout,

Brown pelican,

And Morro manzanita

Through eel-grass beds

Spreading across


Like a tapestry.

Its earthy green threads

Grab deep and

Reach out to




Runner-up: K. Rowe Morris, “Listen”

K. Rowe Morris
K. Rowe Morris

K.’s writing group, an off-shoot of SLO NightWriters, is called “word by word.” She is currently writing a fractured fairy tale based on the story of “The Three Billy Goats Gruff.” While Mid-Grade fiction is her first love, she enjoys writing poetry if she’s given the right inspiration.  K. wrote “Listen” while walking near the estuary on a rare night when it rained.



Salt pulse of the Estuary calls,

the tide of our blood answers.

Transported by paddle and muscle,

we glide

across the glassy magic of the Bay.

Floating by slick marble-eyed seals;

barnacled buoys chime, oysters sip and grow.

Eel grass ghosts

tickle our trailing fingers,

Fog floats, dunes shimmer,


Warm sand shifts under our wet toes,

One slow breath,

a deep cleansing sigh,

Our cares slide away on the current

We are reborn,

refreshed and grinning.

The sea whispers

across a wrinkle of smooth pebbles

She says, “Listen.”

Are we?



Youth Free Flowing


Winner: Lauren Tarica, “Tidal Song”

Lauren Tarica
Lauren Tarica

Lauren is 14 years old and goes to Atascadero High School. Ever since she was young, she has kept a travel journal in which she writes about nature and draws. She enjoys writing, art, science, and music–especially singing.  Lauren sings with the Advanced Vocal Ensemble at the Central Coast Children’s Choir and has twice been a member of the annual ACDA National Honor Choir. 


Tidal Song

The tide fills the channels, winding like tree limbs
Great egrets stalk through the tall grass
Legs like stilts, giving them an advantage over their prey
Crabs dribble over the banks, plop into the water,

and flutter to the floor like feathers from their hunter
Salty mist hugs the ever-changing estuary
A small cheep can be heard as a mother mallard returns to her chicks
Seagulls call from distant dunes

As Time pulls the sun, sea, and moon, the channels empty
The sky becomes the cheek of a child playing in the snow: blush pink
It darkens to the deep blue of the night
Kin of the sky, the ocean, imitates the color till the land is coated in shadow
The only light comes from the moon
It illuminates the bay, waking the creatures that play under its faithful watch
Mud glistens in the gloom, munching on the shoe it had stolen from a stranded sailor

A black silhouette silently dances in front of the stars and touches down on a eucalyptus
Huge eyes peer out as it takes in a panoramic view in one full turn of its feathered head
Nothing can save the prey it spies
Across the water, fox cubs play in the elfin forest
Yipping and growling when an ear is bitten

The night curls overhead
Slowly, silently, a glow smudges the horizon, and the mother fox herds her brood back to the den

A light out of batteries, the moon shrinks away from the dawn and with it go the creatures to await its return
The sun slips over the hills, and coaxes a greeting from the sea
Waves melt into the channels
Grasses peek above the surface and shake with laughter when the cool water embraces their tiny stems
A small minnow kisses the top of the water to catch its breakfast
At the first gull’s cry, the sun floats fully above the land, casting diamonds on the water
Clouds dot the sky like the insides of an unlucky stuffed animal

Twenty-four hours turn over again
The tide fills the channels, winding like tree limbs



Runner-up: Eva Moylan, “The Great Egret”

Eva Moylan's illustration, "The Great Egret"
Eva Moylan’s illustration, “The Great Egret”

Eva is 12 years old and goes to Los Osos Middle School. She enjoys science and art and has loved birds since she was young. Eva raises and shows chickens with 4H and is an avid birder.


The Great Egret

Snowy wings, soft flight

Wind whistles through glossy feathers

As the water flies by below.

Flap, Flap, Whoosh!

Dark feet sink into the mud

Eyes snap back and forth

Long neck held still.

Shot like a white shafted arrow

Gold, razor beak plunges into the reeds

True is its aim as a frog is caught unaware

A swift snap of the bill signals the meals end.

Snowy wings, soft flight

Wind whistles through glossy feathers

As the Great Egret flies home.



Adult Haiku


Winner: George Asdel, “The Morro Bay Estuary”

George Asdel poses with his chapbook, "Reading to Alligators."
George Asdel poses with his chapbook, “Reading to Alligators.”

George Asdel is an award-winning poet and artist. He is a member of the Atascadero Writer’s Group, and shows his art and poems at the Gallery at Marina Square in Morro Bay. Much of his writing and art is whimsical, dealing with nature and human folly. George writes a haiku daily in addition to his other work. He and his wife, Kathie, taught in a one-room school house near Julian, CA, and had a gallery in a Newfoundland fishing village. He has been a puppeteer and script-writer for the past 18 years, and gives performances at the Charles Paddock Zoo, schools, and libraries. The alligator in the picture above is one of George’s puppets.


The Morro Bay Estuary

Quick flash of feathers

Swirl of fresh and salt water

Slow sway of eelgrass



Runner-up: Lila Bhuta, “Estuary Life”

Lila’s favorite spot on the estuary is the lower outlook at the Elfin Forest.  One misty morning, a coyote gingerly advancing at low tide toward a flock of birds inspired this haiku.  She shares poems with a small group of poet enthusiasts in Los Osos and Morro Bay, and has worked in software, information technology and community mediation.  Singing and hiking are two of her favorite activities.


Estuary Life

Gaunt coyote sneaks

Birdlings dance on briny mud

Oblivious snack



Youth Haiku


Winner: Nick Murphy, “Morro Bay Estuary Haiku #1”

Nick is 14 years old and just finished attending Los Osos Middle School. He enjoys writing and feels that it comes naturally to him. He likes living in Los Osos because it’s a good community with easy access to nature, including the estuary. 


Morro Bay Estuary Haiku #1

Critters feel at home

A safe place where no waves break

salty mud and wind



Runner-up: Michael Blanchard, “Morro Bay Estuary”

Michael Blanchard looks out over the estuary
Michael Blanchard looks out over the estuary

Michael is 13 years old and attends Los Osos Middle School. Michael and his mom have fond memories of visiting the Museum of Natural History in Morro Bay when he was young.


Morro Bay Estuary

Shimmering waters

Meandering through the bay

Calm home of the wild



Poetry Contest Judges, 2015


Photo by Sophiesticated
Youssef Alaoui, photo by Sophiesticated

Youssef Alaoui is a Moroccan Latino, born in California. He has lived overlooking Estero Bay for the past five years. Life by the ocean inspired him to publish a collection of dark romantic poems called “Death At Sea” and a nineteenth century adventure novel called “The Blue Demon.” Youssef has an MFA in Poetics from New College of California. There, he studied classical Arabic, Spanish Baroque and Contemporary Moroccan poetry. His family and heritage are an endless source of inspiration for his varied, dark, spiritual, and carnal writings. Find out more at


Rob on his boat, South Bay Wild
Rob on his boat, South Bay Wild

Rob Seitz began writing poetry while working aboard his Grandfather’s commercial salmon fishing boat on The Cook Inlet in Alaska. Since then he has participated in The Fisherpoets Gathering in Astoria Oregon for seventeen years, and read at The Working Waterfront Festival in New Bedford, Mass. He has published one book of poetry, 2.5 gpf, and now resides in Los Osos, CA.


Photo by Patti Sullivan
Kevin Patrick Sullivan, photo by Patti Sullivan

Kevin Patrick Sullivan is the author of several artist books created with his  wife (the artist/poet Patti Sullivan), chapbooks and three books of poetry, First Sight , from Mille Grazie Press, The Space   Between Things , DeerTree Press (made possible by an Art Inspires Individual Artist Grant from Arts Obispo) and Under Such Brilliance , Word Palace Press. He has also been published in magazines and journals, in print, and on line. He was the guest editor   for CAFE SOLO Vol. 1 & 2 and editor with his wife Patti of the anthology, CORNERS OF THE MOUTH A CELEBRATION OF THIRTY YEARS AT THE ANNUAL SAN LUIS OBISPO POETRY FESTIVAL. Kevin is a past Poet Laureate for the City of San Luis Obispo and the Co-Founder  and   Curator for the Annual San Luis Obispo Poetry Festival and Corners of the Mouth, a monthly reading series held at Linnaea’s Café since 1984. He is also the Founder / Curator for Poetry at the Steynberg in San Luis Obispo and with Youssef Alaoui is the County Organizer of the annual 100 Thousand Poets & Musicians For Change event every September since 2011.

Rachel Pass is the Communications & Outreach Coordinator for the Morro Bay National Estuary Program. She works with community members, partners, and other stakeholders to raise awareness of the Estuary Program’s mission, and to encourage participation in restoration and preservation efforts. Rachel brings a background in writing, publishing, and teaching to her role. She loves to read and write poetry, and can often be found watching wildlife on the bay or hiking along the coast.