Morro Bay National Estuary Program Poetry contest winners

Every year the Morro Bay National Estuary Program (MBNEP) holds a poetry contest with a focus on the bay and watershed. A free verse category for adults and youth cover an annual theme and adult and youth haiku is included since haiku is traditionally nature focused.
This years the MBNEP held the State of the Bay in April so, free verse writers were asked to read the State of the Bay Report and choose any issue or idea covered therein.
Judges for this year’s contest were Patti Sullivan, Jerry Douglas Smith, and Glenna Luschei, each judge a poet in their own right.
A record 121 entries were received by the Estuary staff making it a difficult time to choose winners. However, the judges came through and four youth received awards: Matthew McCauley and Eliza Black for Youth Haiku and Adam Rainbolt and Campbell Ellery for Youth Free Verse. Adult awardees were Ted Schade and Michael Kinter for Adult Haiku and Marnie Parker and Tobey Crockett for Adult Free Verse.
A reading and award presentation took place May 19 at Coalesce Bookstore where each winner read their selection as well as selections from the judges. Below are the first-place winners in their categories and their poems.
On the Half Shell – Adult Free Verse - 1st Place - Tobey Crockett
We rode low in the water – I had forgotten
that the sound of wavelets,
lapping and slurping in my ears, could be so

The small motor chugged us over to the oyster rafts,
multiple docks popping and locking with the
hip hop chop
drummed up by the breeze passing over.

The fresh smells of seaweed, salt and spray
cleared our palates.
The sight of lemon wedges holding down
paper plates
made my mouth water of its own accord.

We were getting the VIP treatment thanks to
memories, my great-grandfather’s name still opening doors
and oysters,
which emerged from icy chests tucked away on the deck.

Such sweet sea fruits
awash in the brine of the bay,
creaming butter-like across my tongue,
and yielding juices like a mermaid’s table grape –

I remembered what it was like to be Venus
eating oysters on a sunny day, in Spring.

Marauding Waves – Adult Haiku 1st Place - Michael Kinter
Marauding waves crash
Peregrines high, otters low
stern Rock stands sentry.

What I Can Only Call Home – Youth Free Verse- 1st Place – Campbell Ellery
It’s a game of chase between me and the wind
I run down the familiar boardwalk
Everything feels distant in the fog’s haze

I know every turn of this path
I know every moss-covered tree
I know every loose wooden slate
And yet every time I look upon the estuary.

 I can only call home

I am surprised by the beauty it holds
I am surprised by nesting heron’s grace
And I am surprised by the luck I have been blessed with
To call this my home.

A Fragmented Bay – Youth Haiku – 1st Place – Eliza Black
Bay water runs brown
Eelgrass bed withers and dies
Black brant calls for food.