Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Best Use of a Poetry Mentor, parts 1-2 or 3

This has two parts because my use of a mentor had two parts, actually three, that were distinct. I emphasize from the last entry that a long relationship with a single mentor can be really productive. Initially I submitted poems, we worked them over, I revised the poems, we worked them over again and repeated the process until the poems were as fully realized as they could be at the time. This was a grueling process and hugely educational. The more you learn about writing and the way you write the more you will eliminate bad writing from your drafts (more later about the notion that you shouldn't self-censor in the earliest stages of a draft). This phase of being mentored lasted several years and was indispensable. In the second phase I did much less revising and preferred to take what I was learning from my mentor (Baron Wormser) and apply it to my future poems. Keep in mind that at this time my poems were coming fairly rapidly and I felt that each new one was better than whatever came before. I rarely returned to the mentoring with the same poems again. The most recent stage came about both because I was evolving satisfactorily and because I was low on money. In this stage I worked with the mentor only occasionally, often less than once every six months, and usually with a batch of poems in which I had a specific interest. We have achieved a stage of marvelous mutual regard and friendship and there is nothing I won't show him or that he won't say about my poems-- good, bad or ugly. It has taken more than a decade to arrive at this.

In the next post I will discuss the pros and cons of self-censoring an initial draft.
So long for now.

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