Many poets find having a mentor extremely helpful
There is no single formula for a good poetry mentoring relationship; mentoring styles and activities vary according to need and personality,
it's really whatever works for you and helps you to develop artistically and professionally.
We all have different kinds of mentoring relationships throughout our lives.
You don't necessarily need to think of your mentor as a more experienced poet, a kind of tutor and you as a protégé, though such a
relationship can be really helpful. What can also be really helpful is a mutual mentor relationship with someone who is more or less at a
similar stage of development as you.
The mutual mentor relationship is a variation on the kind of support you would hope to receive in a poetry group.
It may be a deeper relationship with more focussed attention being shared between the mentors.
The important thing is for the pair to agree how the mentor relationship is going to function. It's especially important to establish how
and when you contact each other, and realistically and practically, how much time you each have to give to the mentor-relationship.
An example of how a mentor relationship might work is:
- you meet once a month in a place where you can think, listen and talk without interruption or too much distraction
- you have sent each other a poem before the meeting which you have each had sufficient time enough to read and think about
- your meeting lasts for ninety minutes to two hours during which you spend approximately sixty minutes (thirty minutes each) focussing on
- one poem from each person, and perhaps a further thirty minutes discussing what's happening in your poetry development in general.
- Throughout try to keep the focus on poetry rather than general or personal conversation.
It is important for you to build rapport with your mutual mentor. This process takes time; some suggestions for building rapport:
Establish regular times for meeting together.
Make a list of items to be covered during meetings.
Help each other chart progress in areas that need developing.
Introduce each other to sources of information and contacts.
Share success and failure factors from your own poetry development.
You should talk about, and set mutual expectations as well as responsibilities for the relationship. Your co-mentor may be a friend, and/or,
it's good if you like each other and get on well but you need the mentor relationship to be professional, objective and rigorous.
It's important to agree:
Goals and responsibilities
Ground rules for the mentoring relationship
Protocol for contacting each other
Initially, as with any relationship, there may be a test period and some initial tensions.
Common problems that may arise are:
Feelings of threat exist regarding the new relationship.
One or both of you doesn't keep to the terms of the relationship.
You don't agree on certain issues.
Either you or your co-mentor consistently fails to put the agreed time/work in.
There is poor communication.
The key to moving beyond these obstacles is open, frank, non-judgmental discussion - and the sooner the better.