Literary LEO Poetry Winners Are Here!

Mar 1, 2023 at 3:23 pm
The Literary LEO Poetry Winners are here!
The Literary LEO Poetry Winners are here! adobe

Another year, another Literary LEO.

This year, the entries brought something that we haven’t seen enough of in recent years: a tilt toward the feminine, in tone, submissions, and the deep tenderness in the entries. It was a kind year for choosing winners and honorable mentions, as we were highly impressed with the quality of the work. 

We hope that you’ll agree and make plans to send your own voice to the magazine for the next Literary LEO. 

As usual, there are the categories we’re all used to: Poems, Short Fiction, Cartoons, and Photography, both Black & White and Color. 

The stories span experiences, settings, and tone, but they all share something that we’re all looking for:­­­ a way to connect to our experiences. We look for meaning, feeling, and understanding in so many places, and one of the ways literature helps us is by putting that experience into words and giving our humanity form. 

The poems, likewise, speak to a world where we are trying to make sense. Sometimes it’s making sense of loss, and at other times we are seeking to understand the experience of existence.

The writers in this year’s Literary LEO have beautifully captured a span of these moments, and we’re exceptionally proud to share them with our readers. 

Likewise, in our Photography categories, we saw a range of artists keen on deeply observing the objects, life, and world around them. Photography is art created to look. It feeds our voyeuristic nature. We “see” the world in a particular way, in light or darkness, shadows or shade, and the photography entries this year gave us all of those things. In the Cartoon category, we’re seeing growth in the number of entries, but we definitely would like to see more next year. Louisville has an amazing number of artists, and perhaps, instead of only cartoons, we might need to broaden our category to 2-D visual art. At the same time, Louisville has an amazing number of cartoon, webtoon, and comics creators that we’d love to see in this category. We chose winners, and we’re happy that they chose to share their work with us. We want more of you next year. 

Here are the Poetry winners:

First Place- "Caution: Sharp Objects Inside" by Leslie Mendoza

Second Place- "The Night Two Lovers Leapt" by Frogg Corpse

Third Place- "Mag Bar Post Show" by Romana Bereneth

Honorable Mentions: 

"The Language of Birds" by Jenn Watson

"A Wish Made of Clay" by Lacy Phillips

"Ancestral Connections" Ayla Roberts

"Enter a Silence" by 3PJ

(jump links coming soon)

Poetry: First Place

Caution: Sharp Objects Inside

By Leslie Mendoza

Paper can hurt to touch.

Love letters.

Marriage certificate.

Holiday cards.

I miss you notes.

Divorce settlement.

Organized and categorized,

I place them in a box.

Pieces of my heart,

sealed and shut.


Love of my life.




Poetry: Second Place

The Night Two Lovers Leapt

By Frogg Corpse

In the last warmth of autumns hold

Gripping damp November cold

Protection from this fear

While stripped from comfort clothes.

Leering in the dark

Sweat, rinsing palms,

Moving through words once smooth

Lost along ambiguous thought

An arid sugared spice

Mulling on the mind

Humming a little tune

While staring into night

Sorrows shedding leaves

By the limbering of the pines

Near the douglas keeping watch

At the site where windows cry

Under pattered raining roof,

Sounding querent from broken breast

The heart once beat its truth

The night two lovers leapt

Poetry: Third Place

Mag Bar Post Show

By Romana Bereneth

Who will remember

The things we did

When humans are gone?

The cars. The cars know.

That must be why

They come for us now.

Poetry: Honorable Mention

Language of Birds

By Jenn Watson

The language of birds is purely economical—

“Here are berries” or “Please choose me”. Sometimes

“Share my shelter” or “Beware of owls”. Always

a precise tool for survival, which is all anyone wants 

anyway— to survive when one is hungry or wants 

company or a place to hide just for a while. 

Never, I think, do birds gossip idly. I do not

believe the crows whisper about the sparrows or

the wrens complain about the starlings. There is no room

for this in a world of feathers (everyone

might whine about the jays from time to time, though). 

But there is no place for petty meanness 

amongst birds, where everyone means to survive and know

they must rely on each other to do so. 

A Wish Made of Clay

By Lacy Phillips

I pile the dish soap bubbles, idly wishing I had the power to

speak life into the transitory, faintly crackling mass,

to craft a golem who would scrub for me as I put off writing.

I would watch the rainbows swirl across the mounded surface of his skin, 

perhaps find the inspiration there that I do not see in my reflected face

rippling with every drip that falls from my puckered fingers.

Who among those who wrote the first tales of transmuting death to truth

could have imagined how different their scrolls would be

from the scrolling I do now in place of the storytelling

I tell myself I am meant for?

They have done the thing I find myself now desiring,

given life to an entire tradition through the simple act of leaving a record.

I search their words for the learning I ache for

that I might one day animate a stack of pulp

and send whatever shambling corpse of a book that results

careening from heart to heart after mine has gone still.

Ancestral Connections

By Ayla Roberts

The reason we smile when we swing

Is because it is silly

To be up in the air 


And then all of a sudden


(Except we don’t really have to fall)

Because a genius invented the swing. 


I push my daughters tiny back while her hands hold on tightly

There’s a moment where she reaches the top

And is headed back down

but for a split second her bottom and the seat are no longer touching

A moment of uncertainty, of no gravity, of total chaos.


A belly smile rushes across her face

Which causes a chain reaction,

Cue my belly smile.

In pops a memory of my folks

Pushing me on a swing

My belly smile and then theirs and then on down the line


The first swing can be dated back to 1300 BC-

Mom, dad, who pushed you?