Research project

Invisible Mentors: British Poetry in Partnership, 1960-2020

  • Research groups:
  • Lead researcher:
  • Research funder:
    Arts & Humanities Research Council
  • Status:
    Not active

Project overview

What stories can we tell about the people who make us into poets? This AHRC Fellowship project explored the role, practice, and history of mentoring in UK poetry since 1960.

Working with Winchester Poetry Festival and Artful Scribe, we set up a new regional mentoring scheme, Poetry Ambassadors, developing and evaluating the different the three mentors made to young writers' work and professional confidence.

Through online sessions, peer mentoring, an anthology publication, and performances at a national poetry festival, the three young poets were able to develop the breadth and reach of their work. We uncovered the hidden story of mentoring by drawing on publishing archives held at Newcastle University (Bloodaxe Archive), the John Rylands Library (Carcanet Archive), and the University of Bristol (Penguin Archive), and recording interviews with a range of poet-mentors. Our conversations are now available as part of the podcast series, Verse Mentors.

We held a one-day symposium, bringing together practitioners, poets, and critics to consider the challenges, limitations, and particularities of creative mentoring cultures. This hybrid event was held as part of MAST's Festival of Loveliness in October 2021.

 Our ongoing work is now forming the basis of a new monograph, Poetry & Mentoring, and a new SWWWDTP-funded Collaborative Doctoral Award on the ecologies of mentoring in contemporary poetry.


Lead researcher

Professor Will May

Professor in Modern & Contemporary Lit

Research interests

  • modern and contemporary literature
  • mentoring and creative practice 
  • literary communities in modern culture 
Connect with Will

Collaborating research institutes, centres and groups

Research outputs

Will May, 2021
Type: creativeMediaAndArtefact