How to Find a Poetry Mentor
Regardless of your craft or talent, mentorship is invaluable as you learn and grow. As a poet, finding a mentor who can provide you with encouragement, constructive feedback, and counsel will help you navigate a challenging and competitive field. Whether you’re sharing your work on social media or enrolled in school, here are some tips on how to find a poetry mentor.
Search within your social media community
Start your mentor search within your social media community. Whether you’ve built an audience on Instagram or TikTok, no matter your amount of followers, you never know who might be interested in mentoring you, or if a follower could connect you with a mentor. Publish a post or story with this request, encouraging your community to message you. If you’re on LinkedIn, do the same! Since LinkedIn is an effective platform to network professionally, consider directly reaching out to folks you think could provide some guidance and advice.
Attend local poetry events
Although searching for a mentor online is convenient, meeting folks IRL allows for more genuine, personable connections. Search for local poetry events such as author talks or spoken word open mics—if you’re nervous, bring a friend with you to feel more at ease. Consider asking event organizers or poets if they would like to meet for coffee to discuss their careers, for example. This might seem intimidating, but it’s likely they would be open to answering your questions, which could spark a long-term mentorship.
Enroll in poetry workshops
Another way to find mentorship is by enrolling in poetry workshops. Ranging from short-term to long-term, inexpensive to investment, workshops can help you improve specific skills or learn how to write about various topics. To find mentorship, consider signing up for online or in-person workshops with lower enrollments. These more intimate settings could allow you to connect and stay in contact with your instructor, providing a chance for mentorship lasting beyond your workshop.
Apply for an official mentorship program, like AWP’s Writer to Writer
If you’re searching for a more structured mentorship, sign up for a mentorship that matches mentors with mentees. For example, the Association of Writers and Writing Programs organizes Writer to Writer, an application-based, three-month-long mentorship program for creative nonfiction writers, fiction writers, and poets. Although the program is free, applicants are required to be AWP members in order to apply. If you’re interested, mark your calendar—be sure to submit your application between February 15–March 15, 2024.
If you’re in school, work with a professor
If you’re enrolled in a university and currently taking poetry or literature classes, find mentorship from one of your professors. Staying in contact with professors is crucial as you consider graduate school and progress in your career. Since your professor already knows your work, they can help you hone your craft and forge your path.
As you find one or several mentors over time, remember to find a balance between others’ suggestions and your opinions or intuition—to help you navigate this process, check out these four ways to build confidence as a poet.