From poet, to editor

Whisky, therapy, and the privilege of reading your work. A fantastic new editorial, by guest editor, Jonah Corren.

Having done rather a lot of submitting poems to journals over the last six months, (as many of us have, at least according to all the rejections I received featuring the phrase ‘overwhelming number of submissions’) I was delighted, and perhaps even more surprised, to receive an email from Helen asking if I’d guest-edit the next issue of Seek with her. As it happened, I had already seen her announce the imminent opening of their submissions on Twitter, and had been very much expecting to send something in myself. To suddenly be thrust into the opposite position, therefore, was a little disorienting, but, honestly, extremely therapeutic. Seriously, I’d recommend it. The old adage that writing is ‘cheaper than therapy’ is, after all, rather turned on its head when the rejections start pouring into your inbox. Not to mention that we could all use some extra endorphins to get us through this grease-fire of a year. I’ve taken up whisky.

It was, of course, with a long, laboured swig that we were forced not to publish some of the excellent work we received. There were some pieces that just needed a last edit, or some that didn’t quite chime with our vision for the issue, and choosing not to publish is certainly the hardest job an editor has. The opportunity to read said work was, nonetheless, a real privilege.

The four pieces you’ll read in this issue were chosen, quite simply, because they blew us away. ‘Sallyanne Rock’s ‘fold/unfold’ was one of the first I read, and I instantly knew we simply had to publish it. Roger Robinson said recently of his TS Eliot-prize winning collection that his poems were designed to ‘help people to practice empathy’, and ‘fold/unfold’ does this effortlessly, filling the reader with images of someone whose identity remains entirely translucent, then, emptying them completely. ‘Slow News Day’ by Victoria Richards, conversely, remonstrates societal apathy in devastating couplets, laying images on the page in black and white, letting them speak for themselves, daring us to actually listen.

Where Victoria’s poem is stark and uncompromising, ‘Signs Of Life’ scatters images to the wind, leaving the reader to piece the narrator’s senses together themselves. Niamh Haran here marries abstract small-town details with something painful and deeply physical, and the result absorbs your attention completely. ‘Stratigraphic Time’ shares this sense of bringing the reader into a world that is unfamiliar and disorienting, but does so by skipping through prehistoric ages like pebbles across a stream. R.M. Francis uses the poem’s brief lines to demonstrates the swiftness of change, and conjures geological features simply by naming them.

The choice to only publish a small handful of poems per issue, whilst painful in its necessitating turning away lots of great work, is, I think, ultimately an extremely rewarding exercise. I hope, as we have, you’ll take this opportunity to read and reread each of the four poems published here, finding new ways to do so each time, fixating on new details, uncovering new meanings.


In the space of ten minutes, no less than seven craneflies
scamper through our windows, out of the rich autumn dark,
and onto the walls and ceiling of the eggshell kitchen.

All legs and wings they spasm in flight, hugging
the surfaces like a covert magnet in a magic trick,
driven to frenzy by the mere exertion of still being alive.

In the morning, I see a tangle of limbs crushed
into the cream carpet, and almost drown another
in the shower. I try my best to scoop the crazed thing

out of the window, but as soon as I open my palm,
it turns tail and makes a beeline for the shower again.
Ah well. When your lifespan barely stretches a fortnight,

there’s no sense in doing anything remotely rational.

by Jonah Corren


Signs Of Life

Signs Of Life

strung out on electrical country cables mid-air
a dead pigeon drooping on the corner post: signs of life

now that the acid is dead I am peering up from the grass
not the drunken kind I could have been had I not been

a crate of frozen berries my red and purple fingertips
crushing up the juice smeared like lipstick

playing womanhood hard again I’m waiting
for a day of buzzcuts and bones if there are stains

for such sickness its colours are sharp like a bladder
cramping all the way up to the oesophagus

green morning dew of the night and wet soil
craving the enamel on my tongue. 

Niamh Haran 

Stratigraph Time

Stratigraph Time 

Ground frost 
sits shaded before
May Day rays thaw
and we use its silver
shimmer like fishermen
trails, through fence.
Follow Hawthorn nook,
Cowslip cause, iced
pebble mass to Great Barr Fault
where breccia forges god-time
in red rock displacements.
At the Strata Fold
I'm taken between 
dimensions to
steaming swamp
forests, flittering
with glitter-bubbles
of squirming
chilopoda. Its curl
speaks the same song
as Braken; chain coral's
infinite coda. 
Then home,
now frosts are mellowed
and circuits and circles 
and stirrings clasp
R.M. Francis   

fold /unfold

fold / unfold
When it was our turn to try,
she stayed in the box room,
making no indent in the spare bed
eating only blonde crispbreads 
or strawberry bubblegum,
folding the wrappers into tiny pink hummingbirds.
She taught me to pleat and pinch the tails ‒
I watched her squash a sadness 
inside each beak.
Months later, the early morning call 
to say her fight by fridgelight 
was over; the heart, stopped –
I cried for hours in my borrowed skirt, 
surrounded by adults and their prayers 
that had done nothing to nourish her.
Back home in the spare room
I found a shoe box, filled
with a scented confetti of wings;
handfuls of them, weightless.

Sallyanne Rock


Slow news Day

Slow news Day

In the stuffy newsroom, the scent of salt lingers between lines.
The Aegean laps hungrily at spaces

as deflating rubber dinghies sail on inky seas, crash into margins
Children stumble shoeless over sentences and double-page spreads,

as fifty bodies float away from boats commanded by painters,
who have never drawn sails before.

Map-less, compass-less, they prayed their way towards Samos;
only to overturn 20 yards from shore, a shallow, breakout box of statistics.

Ten souls: four babies, a cartoon boy on a black-and-white beach in Turkey
and the outline of a little girl, washed up a few miles from Kusadasi.

For a while we care, clutch our own more tightly,
thank ‘God’ or ‘luck’ for England.
Then we call back our rescue ships, put away our whistles,
forget the flotilla, talk of ‘tackling immigration’.

And when the next boat sinks, we’ll put down our pens, leave life vests
at the bottom of the page, an S. O. S (in brackets).

Someone, please, bring us a shooting at a school in midtown white America.
Angry, loner, virgin killer – now that, we can really get excited about. 

Victoria Richards 


Winter’s scaffold dismantled,
breeks folded and placed by the door. Orange belts of magma swirled by turbines. The cool-blue and black of ancient sculptors.   Parks are full of people strengthening their reserves, sand-bagging the heart, sharing the acute pangs or disposing of them in the river, weighted with rock.   Then, the quiet sunrise, cobwebs bucket dew, the moon sleepwalks in a faded pocket. Lamp posts cough and splutter across pavements. Flowers elbow one another in the long-waterless jar,   colour gone from lips, stems of dust held
together by nothing more and no less. Petals kicked up, whirled among seasons as the tides ricochet, they cannot say no.

David Linklater is a poet from Balintore, Easter Ross. His work has appeared in Gutter, Glasgow Review of Books, Ink, Sweat & Tears, DMQ Review and SPAM, amongst others. His pamphlet Black Box was published in 2018 with Speculative Books. He lives and writes in Glasgow. Twitter: @DavidRossLinkla


I’m in love with a rubberman

…only the one that inflicts the pain can take it away
Madonna, Erotica (1992)
you thrive on the surface of things
like a thorn shines with pulse & beat
through your fingers I exist
like suds-
bursts of soap that pop  
in soiled boots & amyl tonight
the audacity of lust
suspends all disbelief
with spits & slaps & fists & moans
               manifesto for the body electric
wrapped in the thrill of this unknown
tip-taps away
in a swish-swish of tears
                (the safe word   yes Sir)
I will gag them              tears
make them creatures of
the inaudible
let me tell you what’ll be
the mystery of your legacy
the certainty of living, abhorred

Piero Toto (he/him), is an Italian translator, lecturer, LGBTQ scholar and house music enthusiast living in London, UK. He writes under the influence of T.S. Eliot, Pedro Salinas, the Beat Generation, Milo De Angelis, James Baldwin and the forefathers of House. Major influences in his work are Derek Jarman’s Blue, Fingers Inc. featuring Chuck Roberts’ Can You Feel It (Vocal) and Laura Palmer’s death in Twin Peaks. ‘I’m in love with a rubberman’ is a free verse composition and reflection on kink, sexuality and the impossibility of language. Twitter: @tradutoto.


The Grief Directory

I thought that having lost my father as a child I understood loss – but a mother is a very particular thing, which one knows in the living and brutally relearns in the loss. (Margot)

Losing one’s mother is life changing. It doesn’t matter how old or young your mother (or you are), it’s your mother. The rest of your life will be shaped by it. But it will be ok. (Helen Y)

Yes, grief is a tricky one and takes its own time to work through. Keep talking about the feelings, however difficult it might seem. It does help. Mind how you go. (Paul H)

We only have one mother. The roots and tendrils of that relationship beginning long before memory. Death is always tough. All the best for the road ahead. Good luck. (Sam)

Grief takes its own goddamned time. And it’s kinda empty words to point that out, but it will subside. All about (and isn’t it a silly term) self-care at this stage. I find swimming helps. (Ben)

Grief is entirely specific to the person – let it be about you. (Pat)

You’re vulnerable and in shock. Anger is based on safety. Go with it. (Kay)

Loss is hard, it takes tolls in all kinds of ways, both expected and unexpected. (Laura C)

‘The Grief Directory’ is taken from Richard’s forthcoming collection, ‘Invisible Sun’, which will be published by Smokestack in February 2021.