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The Garden Party Collective presents: Flyover States (Poetry Contest #1) 
For our very first poetry contest (January 2024), Bob Sykora selected "Flyover States":

"I first moved to the midwest from the west coast when I was 18, and since then I’ve lived at least briefly in each of the country’s four time zones. I’ve been so fortunate to live in so many places, but I’ve kept finding myself gravitating back towards the country’s center. Being further from traditional institutions so often entrenched on our country’s coasts, I’ve come to greatly admire the way artists and writers in our country’s middle are so innovative in their practices and the ways they build community.

I hope this contest can celebrate the sense of inventiveness and community that I’ve found in writers who live away from the coasts. While the content of the poem doesn’t need to explicitly focus on geographic location or identity, I hope the spirit of these poems can speak to the sensibilities of so many great writers I know thriving in parts of our country that are often overlooked."

Huge congratulations to our three winners(!): K. Mobley, Arushi (Aera) Rege, and John Leo

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"St. Charles, MO"

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K. Mobley (they/them) is a bundle of crows in a long green cloak. A writer and poet based out of Missouri, their work follows themes of gender, the body, and upbringing. 

instagram: @karmley.23


"twin exit wounds & a love song"

the myth starts with a hello baby; the myth starts with my hand on yours & my lifeline placed on kissed-raw lips & whiskey-flavored mouths; the myth starts with prometheus & fire & a penchant to burn. you have a need to set things on fire & i’m the matchstick willing to be lit aflame; the myth starts with strobe lights & meteor showers we pretended were falling down to scorch; we deserve this, you know, the ring of fire we pretend we can’t feel under stars that scream for recognition; the myth starts like this, we pretend to dance underneath the candlelight. waltz. salsa. the details don’t matter; the myth starts like this, i think if i met the goddess of beauty, she’d take your face & your voice & your body & she’d be you; the myth starts with a halo of galaxies untold & a fire under our asses & my rage (love) sold out a concert hall & i screamed until my throat was raw & my fingers cut into the filets only a violinist could achieve. (the truth is my rage barely fills my body, an exit wound with no point of entry.); the myth starts with agni & a story about love & a cheesy line about the tunnel of love & how you’d never let me go if you had the option; each morning an elegy & each afternoon a funeral & each night a burning pyre (burning love burning body burning hearts); the myth goes like this – i tell you i remember what it feels like to be lit aflame, paper-mache skin & nyx’s red lipstick (shade copenhagen) & the raw red of my skin on yours – we pretend this is what nights upon nights look like (not a burning pyre. never the burning pyre; a nightmare long forgotten, a bullet hole with no casing). we pretend this means you never leave. we pretend this means i need you to stay (we pretend that i’m burning. this means i need you to stay. this means i pretend i’m not lying. this means the ring of fire has our name on it & the halo’s a scorching earth or a broken promise or a moth towards lightning or a self-portrait in only one color). the myth ends with a hello baby; the myth ends with the ending we deserve, an unfinished poem & a story that refuses to burn & a man that controls fate (leaving. staying. what does it matter anymore); the myth ends with this: i step on your toes when we dance the waltz (there’s something poetic about this, how the air burns with the desire of it all, how we’re locked together with a halo & a ring of fire); the myth ends like this: we just want to love, baby. we just want to be two exit wounds with no point of entry. we just want to take up space. we just want to burn.

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Arushi (Aera) Rege is a queer, chronically in pain, Indian-American poet who simultaneously attends junior year in high school. They tweet occasionally @academic_core and face the perils of instagram @aeranem_26. Their debut chapbook, BROWN GIRL EPIPHANY, is forthcoming with fifth wheel press. They are also the EIC of nightshade lit. You can find their website at


after “In Kyoto” 

You are in the cafe. 

I am on the roof. 

We are in your bed. 

If a particle can return 

to the past, invisible 

as a birthday, perhaps 

we are at once 

juggling and murderous, 

bedridden and purring, 

propagated in each 

terrarium and the tangled

realnesses within. 

You are at the gym. 

I am Pythagoras puzzling

your hip to waist ratio 

and moaning like a poltergeist.

Tachyons press like buckshot

through every lowercase o

in every poem, dispersed 

across every book until 

my love overtakes the back half

of Austerlitz and most 

of gnostic scripture. 

A lighthouse keeper 

shrieks. His manifest 

has always read 

darling, darling, darling. 

A receipt for seven oxen 

says kiss me in Sanskrit. 

Xs and Os rejigger 

on a football 

coach’s blackboard until 

the pass rush scheme bleeds

backward into the golden

dreams of Scipio. 

In the year 2960 a druid uncovers

the particle from which all poetry

explodes, and in Kyoto suddenly

a poet has an idea about Kyoto. 


And we are in the dark, 

and we are on the bed, 

and we are kissing, 

and already I long for you

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John Leo is an author and game designer. He is the writer of This is Not a Place of Honor (Night Gallery Press, 2024) and The Names of Ancient Wars (Ghost City Press, 2021). His work has appeared in the anthology A Flame Called Indiana: New Writing from the Crossroads (Indiana University Press, 2023) and elsewhere. His tabletop design credits include Star Wars: Unlimited and Wolves of Mercia.

instagram: @sorrowfulgroanings

twitter: @_johnleo

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