A National Treasure in Words Poetry Contest 2016


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The winners are in!

Many thanks to all of the wonderful poets who entered this year’s contest. You made us proud (and the judging process difficult)!

Please click here to read the names of the winners and their poems.

Then, join us for a celebratory reading that will feature the judges and contest winners and runners-up on Friday, May 20, at Coalesce Bookstore in Morro Bay.

If you didn’t win this year, please don’t be discouraged. We’ll offer the contest again next year!


A National Treasure in Words Poetry Contest, 2016

The Estuary Program’s annual poetry contest is open April 1 through April 29. Please find more information about the poetry contest below, and make sure to read the complete set of official rules before entering the contest


Estuarine Seventeen: All entries must follow the haiku form: a three-line poem with a total of seventeen syllables, written with a 5/7/5 syllable count. Click here for more information on the haiku form. Poems must use the theme “Morro Bay estuary.” All poems entered must be written after May 15, 2015, and must be unpublished as of the date of entry.

Estuary & Watershed Wildlife: Entries in this category may be written in any form, and should contain no more than 45 lines, including any blank lines between stanzas. Poems must focus on wildlife native to the Morro Bay estuary and/or the surrounding watershed. All poems entered must be written after May 15, 2015, and must be unpublished as of the date of entry.

Who can enter?

The contest is open to youth ages 12–17, and adults age 18 and up at the time of entry. One youth winner and one adult winner will be chosen from each category.

How to enter

  • Send up to three entries (three poems) by email to the Estuary Program with the subject line “2016 Poetry Contest.” Poems should be typed in an easy-to-read 12-point font. (Please, no cursive or other fancy fonts.)
  • All entries must be received by 11:59 p.m. (PDT) on April 29, 2016.
  • Each entry must be attached to the email in Word format (.doc or .docx file type) or PDF format (.pdf file type). You may include all of your entries in one document.

In the body of your email, please include

  1. Author’s first and last name: The author’s full first and last name as it should appear in publication.
  2. Contact information: including email, phone number, and mailing address.
  3. Personal information: 
    • Youth entries should include the author’s age, grade level, current school, and the full name and contact information of the parent or guardian who is giving permission for the youth to enter the contest.
    • Adults should include the author’s city of residence.
  1. The category or categories the author is entering. Category choices:
    • Youth Estuarine Seventeen (ages 12 through 17)
    • Youth Estuary & Watershed Wildlife (ages 12 through 17)
    • Adult Estuarine Seventeen (age 18 and up)
    • Adult Estuary & Watershed Wildlife (age 18 and up)


Winners will be announced on May 13, and will be invited to participate in a celebratory reading at Coalesce Bookstore on Friday, May 20 at 7 p.m. Guest judges will also read a selection of their poetry. Winners will receive a prize basket, and their work will be published in print and online.


Please make sure to read the official rules; they should answer many of your questions.

Poetry Contest Judges, 2016

Poems will be judged by a panel that includes three guest judges and one representative from the Estuary Program.


Marguerite Costigan

Marguerite Costigan, Guest Judge

Marguerite Costigan’s poetry reflects her love of art, nature, and the music of language.  She has read poetry to San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara audiences for 20+ years and has been published in Asylum, Café Solo, and Pudding Magazine. She’s been the featured reader at the live poetry series Corners of the Mouth, and San Luis Obispo’s annual Poetry Festival. Marguerite is the current Poet Laureate for San Luis Obispo County.


Patti Sullivan

Patti Sullivan, Guest Judge

Books include, For the Day,  Not Fade Away, and At The Booth Memorial Home for Unwed Mothers 1966. Other poems appear in Solo Novo,  Lummox, ARTLIFE, and Lilly Ledbetter: Women Poets Occupy the Workplace.
She assists with the Corners of the Mouth at Linnaea’s, Poetry at the Steynberg, and the Annual San Luis Obispo Poetry Festival curated by Kevin Patrick Sullivan.

She is also a visual artist with several book covers to her credit and group and solo exhibits.


Photo by Joe Johnston\The Tribune
Photo by Joe Johnston\The Tribune

Jerry Douglas Smith, Guest Judge

A Salida, Colorado native, Jerry’s been a storyteller all his life. Living at 7000 feet in the heart of the Rockies, he acquired a natural education informed by rivers, raccoons, Native Americans, smart trout and wise old forests. A backpacker and fly-fisherman, he is a naturalist in the old sense–an insatiably curious student of human nature and the universe.

For 2013 and 2014 Jerry was Poet Laureate of San Luis Obispo. He’s a founding member of  24-year-old  Poets on the Edge critique group.

For 15 years, he has hosted Second Sunday at Seven, a monthly poetry reading at Coalesce Garden Chapel in Morro Bay.



Rachel Pass, Estuary Program Judge

Rachel 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.


Past winners

Read the winning and runner-up poems from 2015.



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