Morro Bay Estuary Poetry Contest 2018

From left: Contest winners: Norma Wightman, Emily Duclos, Joanne K. Hand, Richard Immel, Gavin Hughes, Tom Harrington. Contest judges: Marnie Parker, Kevin Patrick Sullivan, Karen Kirby. Not pictured: Contest winners Peyton S. and Zeke Taylor.

A National Treasure in Words Poetry Contest 2018 winners have been chosen!

Read the poems in our blog and join the contest winners, judges, and the Estuary Program for a celebration of poetry and the Morro Bay estuary at Coalesce Bookstore on Friday, May 18, at 7 p.m.


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 All poems entered must be written after April 30, 2017, and must be unpublished as of the date of entry.

A New Perspective: Entries in this category should be written in free verse, and should contain no more than 45 lines, including any blank lines between stanzas. Poems must focus on a topic that is explored in the Morro Bay Estuary Program’s new interactive Science Kiosk. You can access the kiosk content at All poems entered must be written after April 30, 2017, and must be unpublished as of the date of entry.

Please read the official contest rules before submitting


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 poems by email with the subject line “2018 Poetry Contest.” These three poems may be in one category or split between the two categories. 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 30, 2018.
  • 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 email, and phone number 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 New Perspective (ages 12 through 17)
    • Adult Estuarine Seventeen (age 18 and up)
    • Adult New Perspective (age 18 and up)


Winners will be announced on May 11, and will be invited to participate in a celebratory reading at Coalesce Bookstore on Friday, May 18 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 online.

Judging Panel

Karen Kirby, Guest Judge

Karen Kirby joined the staff at Coalesce Bookstore just over a year ago and is thrilled to call Morro Bay home. She was born and raised in Louisiana and spent her professional life in independent bookstores and libraries. As part of the library Youth Department she oversaw the arts program which included poetry writing and frequent poetry slams.


Marnie Parker, Guest Judge

Marnie Parker received a Bachelor of Arts in English and TESL at Cal Polytechnic University. A variety of her fiction, nonfiction, and poetry has been published in the Central Coast and Virginia publications. Parker’s Blue Sanctuary (2015) placed first in adult free form and her poem Meandering through the Zostera (2017) placed second in the same category for The Morro Bay Estuary contest. Recently, she was nominated and selected to read for the third annual Tanta International Poetry Festival in Egypt October 2017. She read some of her selected poems which included her award winning poem Breaking of Coral translated into Arabic and included in an international anthology. Currently, she is sending off her manuscript Brush Strokes about the relationship between poetry and painting.


Kevin Patrick Sullivan, Guest Judge

Kevin Patrick Sullivan’s books include, First Sight, The Space Between Things , Under Such Brilliance and UNIMPAIRED.  His poems are in SOLO, ASKEW, LUMMOX, MIRAMAR and several anthologies

He is co-editor of Corners of the Mouth A Celebration of Thirty Years at the Annual San Luis Obispo Poetry Festival. He is a Poet Laureate Emeritus for the city of San Luis Obispo and the Co-founder and Co-Curator of the Annual San Luis Obispo Poetry Festival which will celebrate its 35th rendition this November.


Rachel Pass, Estuary Program Contest Coordinator

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.



Please make sure to read the official rules; they should answer many of your questions. If other questions arise, please contact Rachel Pass at 805-772-3834 ext. 13.