CDN Spring Poetry Contest

Area poets ages 7 to 84 brought their words to life in inaugural event
April 23, 2023 at 5:00 a.m.
Evelyn Gill, one of five adult winners of the inaugural CDN Spring Poetry Contest, stands in her yard. Gill describes herself as "a queer gardener, bird-watcher, poet and nurse living in Bellingham with her spouse and dog." Her work is forthcoming in The Westchester Review, The Indianapolis Review and Vagabond City Literary Journal.
Evelyn Gill, one of five adult winners of the inaugural CDN Spring Poetry Contest, stands in her yard. Gill describes herself as "a queer gardener, bird-watcher, poet and nurse living in Bellingham with her spouse and dog." Her work is forthcoming in The Westchester Review, The Indianapolis Review and Vagabond City Literary Journal. (Finn Wendt/Cascadia Daily News)

By Maria McLeod

Poetry offers a reflection of what it means to be human in a given moment in history, and these fine poems from residents of Whatcom and Skagit counties, some as young as 7 years old, are no exception. 

It was an honor to serve as judge for CDN’s inaugural Spring Poetry Contest in celebration of Poetry Month. 

Many of the poems included elements of the landscape in which we live and expressed emotions we share: love, loss, wonder, awe ... Although I judged the poems blind, not knowing their authors, I couldn’t help but feel I could see and hear each poet: from one child’s reflection on her 5-year-old self, pretend-posing “for all my paparazzis” in her Hello Kitty socks, to an adult hiking a trail where “chalk grassland teems with wildflowers, rabbits, butterflies.”

Top five submissions in the adult category


I’m headed on a trail
Along which trees swoop up

Branches form a canopy
Of green shadows

Above ferns and snow drops
White and nosy.

Generations of fallen
Leaves duff a soft carpet.  

I funnel through
This tunnel until it curves

Around the trails tail
Elbows onto a meadow

Where chalk grassland teems
With wildflowers, rabbits

Butterflies. Here my first gulp
Of air brings tears.

—By Lynn Geri, Bellingham

photo  Nature takes center stage in Andrew Schwarz's poem “Before, again.” (Photo courtesy of Andrew Schwarz)  

“Before, again”

Patches of
Turquoise sky
Glow with
Sunrise luminescence
Dark fingers of cloud
Drifting north.
No sparkling light
Without darkness,
No life
Without death preceding.
What comes before the beginning?
Leaves brown and
Fall to
Make way for new buds
By and by.
Dreams of my father
Before the birth of my son,
Riot of life, this forest growth
Leaves and branches
Roots and trunks
Embrace the dance of decay.
Mould and mulch
Make fertile ground,
A womb
For new life.

Who was I
Before my birth?
What death made way
For my living?

—By Andrew Schwarz, Bellingham 

photo  “Quantum depression,” Timothy Pilgrim's mind-bending poem, was chosen as one of the top 5 submissions in the adult category for the CDN Spring Poetry Contest. (Photo courtesy of Timothy Pilgrim)  

“Quantum depression”

I am livid about Dark Energy,
seethe when I think of its mission —
destroy all space, and time.

Fear I’ll live to one hundred, wake up
not dead, live my entire life again.
This time, own a ranch, an island,

fly alone from one to the other
in a private jet. My ill will builds
for physicists, even if they’ve found

light has weight. I try to recall
if I took my meds, decide to forget.
Call up special hate for Photons,

puppeteers of Black Lightning.
Decide to kite-fly at midnight, naked,
taunt the coming storm.

—By Timothy Pilgrim, Bellingham

“Whatcom in the Winter”

Once the sky was filthy with birds
their calls as deafening as the traffic and sirens
that replaced them. Few now flock to these flooded plains
rooting for what summer left behind. Remnants
of what this place once was when the sun still burned
our eyes and marshes teamed with willets and teals
when ruddy turnstones littered rocky shores
and sandstone stood white-washed in the refuse
of cormorants and murres. A trumpeting V now parts
an empty sky. An echo in a barren cistern.
Do they not know the water has run out?

—By Evelyn Gill, Bellingham 

photo  “Let Us Be Awake,” by Everson resident Suzanne Harris, evokes the spirit of tides and sky. (Photo courtesy of Suzanne Harris)  

“Let Us Be Awake”

Let us be awake in the morning
before the sun has dried the fog,
undressed the trees.
When the divide between
sky and sea and sand
is smudged and blurred,
and we know not if we walk
or swim, or fly.
When the eternal
whisper and drumming waves
silence all else except
perhaps, the song of a gull;
and the waters scour
the sands to glass, clear and smooth
erasing the hieroglyphs
of night’s receding tide.

—By Suzanne Harris, Everson 

Honorable Mentions in the adult category

“Raven Palaces in the Sky”

I whisper to you
come home early

to catch this dazzling
that shudders over the Salish

My fingernails grow
with expediency
It is the turn
of the season
everything growing
and pushing out
beyond the prisms of winter
curled against the window
anticipating how the world
could end

I once apprenticed on hands
and knees only rarely
my head to look
at the northern sky
its tyranny of light

held as a birthright
dug into the skin
in envy of some wild-
fresh place
from which to start.

—By Janet Riley, Sedro-Woolley

“Man with a Broken Arm”

Big Rock Park, Bellingham

The sculptor renders (I imagine)
A stoic gladiator:
Carved from cement,
His face etched with concern.

He instinctively raises an arm,
Now broken, as a shield:
It’s figurative, like love,
Kindness, or acceptance.

As Hemingway once implied,
Does our grit and resilience
Reside where the heartache
Has been most severe? 

I imagine the sculpture
Is also a portrait of an artist:
Doing the best he can
With the armor he has.

—By Charles Luckmann, Bellingham 

“The Indomitable Presence”

Along the wind’s route,
shadows waver in its wake
and vanish — alone.

A lone wind appears
in absentia, waiting
for its palimpsests.

A susurration
through leaves signals winds exist
here. Then — silence.

Rushing all around,
through etches and spaces made
when the wind protests.

The wind surrenders its force;
the wind drowns me in the air.

—By Reina Gutierrez, Mount Vernon 

“this short and peculiar life”

eyes closed
the infinite vastness
without time
a billion stillnesses, full of energy

eyes opened
all that collapses
into a swarm of blackberries and alder
the intricacy of a chickadee
a roof, a meal, a love

and i’m amazed and terrified
that we are capable of anything more
than being in the green breath
of this irrepressible earth

mouths dropped open in wonder
minds mad with astonishment

—By Luther Allen, Bellingham 

“Life Changes”

Seems like yesterday
I was twelve, walking to school,
in the sunny Caribbean.
I heard shouts,
saw two men fighting.
Curved cutlass blades
sliced their black flesh.
Dark blood dripped
on the tarred street,
and sizzled in the morning heat.
Sharp fear weighted my heart,
emotionally trapped
for years.
A lifetime later,
I walk slowly
on a Puget Sound shore.
Watch the sea wash colorful stones,
feel the hot summer sun
creates rivulets of sweat
down my back.
Shadows of fear
no longer pursue me.
I am finally free.

— By Elizabeth Jane Pryce, Bellingham 

Top five submissions in the youth category

photo  In addition to being the youngest poet to enter a submission for the CDN Spring Poetry Contest, Evan Meier, 7, was chosen as one of the top 5 writers in the youth category for his poem “Big, Tall Trees.” (Photo courtesy of Sarah Meier)  

“Big, Tall Trees”

Good for treehouses, good for cabins.
Good for birds, but not when cut down.
There are so many kinds — dogwoods, maples, evergreen and more.
Who knows how long they’ve been alive,
maybe before the dinosaurs!?
Everyone needs them for lots of things,
to build, to breathe,
and to whittle birds with wings. 

— Evan Meier, age 7, Bellingham

photo  Helen Richard, 8, wrote the poem “Hello Kitty Socks.” “Here is a photo of her, looking fresh," Helen's father Jabez Richard said. (Photo courtesy of Ciera Richins)  

“Hello Kitty Socks”

When I was 5
I wore my hello kitty socks and my white heels.
and I clip-clopped down the stairs.
And stretched in the kitchen pose for all my paparazzis
then the memory faded away
the end. 

—By Helen Richard, age 8, Bellingham

photo  Ferndale resident Sy Taylor, 16, wrote the poem “Our Own World.” (Photo courtesy of Sy Taylor)  

“Our Own World”

If the whole world faded,
Out of sight,
Would you still dance with me
In the light of a thousand stars
Blinking in the dark,
I’d hold onto you forevermore. 

The stars in your eyes
Match the ones in the sky.
I’ve never seen anything
So bright in my life. 

I think our two
Worlds have collided,
Like asteroids, we’re
Destined for a ride. 

—By Sy Taylor, age 16, Ferndale 

“My Sweet Little JJ”

I reach for the clouds, the planes and the sky
Smiling as I watch all of the birds fly by.
But then I remember of a baby alone as can be
My sweet little JJ playing by our tree.

I rush over to her,
Pick her up high,
She squeals in delight
As she feels like she could fly

I know I’m not perfect,
I know I’m misunderstood.
But for you,
I will try my hardest to be good

My sweet little JJ
Turning one today
Just know, if picking between
friends and you
I would always choose to stay

As the years go by
I hope our love together grows
Like our favorite tree
That never gets old

I love you JJ

—By Ella McKee-Kocourek, age 13, Lynden 

photo  Edie McGrath, age 12, wrote the poem "Enchanted." (Photo courtesy of Jolie McGrath)  


An inkblot on an empty page
Turns to inspiration
Words roll off the tip of the pen easily
They flow
Like a river of silk
That stain on paper means something
It means that the story has begun
Written by one
Enjoyed by many
Printed in ink
Ink that lasts
A million colors
Yet only one
A window to a world worth sharing
Or perhaps...A mirror?

—By Edie McGrath, age 12, Bellingham  

Honorable mentions in the youth category 

The following poems were collectively chosen as honorable mentions. The submissions are from third-graders at Happy Valley Elementary School in response to several lessons about emotions. Instead of choosing five poems, we included all nine. 


Powerful eats other people’s food.
Powerful lives in the biggest castle.
Powerful wears the finest robes.
Powerful has a pet tiger.
Powerful was born out of an erupting volcano.

—By Ethan Fehrer


Excited eats quickly with her hands.
Excited lives in an amusement park.
Excited wears a smile and sparkly eyes everywhere she goes.
Excited has a pet spider monkey named Disney.
Excited was born in Hogwarts. 

—By Scarlett Bella 


Calm was born in a quiet sunny meadow.
Calm lives in a quiet little clearing in the forest.
Calm has a quiet little puppy named May.
Calm is always smiling.
She wears a jumper, hoop earrings, and moccasin slippers.
Her hair is silky smooth.
Calm eats strawberries and blueberries.
She drinks jasmine tea. 

—By Celia Podorean


Happy eats anger.
Happy lives in a tree.
Happy wears a dress with hoop earrings.
Happy’s pet is a bunny with a rainbow tail.
Happy was born in the clouds.

—By Adrian Cruz


Bossy eats someone else’s cake without asking.
Bossy lives in her very own mansion and doesn’t invite anyone to it.
Bossy wears a crop top, ripped jeans, and really dangly earrings.
Bossy has a pet pony that doesn’t listen. 

—By Amelia Vail 


Angry was born in Iceland and still lives there.
Angry eats love and happiness and worms.
Angry lives in a dirt hole.
Angry wears all red.
Angry’s pet is a tiger named Silas. 

—By Jackson Douglas 


Sneaky eats a piece of pizza from another person’s plate.
Sneaky lives in a black cave.
Sneaky wears a black disguise and black sunglasses.
Sneaky’s pet is a red fox.
Sneaky was born in a secret hideout in the forest. 

—By Annika Smithson


Calm eats tacos.
Calm lives in the water.
Calm wears a top hat.
Calm’s pet is a turtle that swims across the ocean.
Calm was born in the water. 

—By Oden Larson 

"It’s Good to be Yourself”

It’s good to be yourself.
Roses are red
Violets are blue
It’s good to be myself
I think you should too! 

—By Lucid Zapata-Mills 

Maria McLeod is the author of two poetry chapbooks, “Mother Want” and “Skin. Hair. Bones.” She’s won the WaterSedge Chapbook Contest, Indiana Review Poetry Prize, and the Robert J. DeMott Short Prose Prize. She lives in south Whatcom County and works as a professor of journalism for Western Washington University.

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