Roundup: Writers and Their Mentors

In our Roundups segment, we’re looking back at all the great posts since the blog started in 2009. We explore posts from our archives as well as other top literary magazines and websites, centered on a certain theme to help you jump-start your week. This week we bring you posts about writers and their mentors.

From Ploughshares:

I Don’t Stand Alone: Poets Orlando White and Sherwin Bitsui on the Importance of Mentors

Whether it’s in the acknowledgment section of their books or in daily prayers of gratitude, many writers thank mentors for helping to shape their paths as artists. In the interview below, authors Sherwin Bitsui and Orlando White graciously open the window to their friendship and writing.

Sherwin and Orlando in 2002. Photo credit: Orlando White.

How did you two meet?

Sherwin: I met Orlando in 2000. I was giving a youth writing workshop in Blanding, Utah, when the English teacher asked me to meet a Diné student who was also a gifted poet. We were introduced later that afternoon and he read some of his own poems to me. He was obviously talented and had a deep connection to language. Over the next few years we continued to correspond and he occasionally sent me poems. He attended my readings at several local book festivals. When I left Utah for my new home in Tucson, I gave him my copy of Lorca’s “Poet in New York” as a parting gift. Ultimately, we were both young poets crossing cultural borders and infusing that space with image and language. It was a new century and we were biting at a new way to speak to the present as honestly and artfully as we could.

Orlando: I met Sherwin Bitsui in a small town in southern Utah. At the time he was teaching poetry for a summer program. And it was through a high school English teacher I was able to connect with him. Back then, I was a completely shy individual who hardly said anything, and a college drop-out. I also worked as a breakfast cook at a local nursing home, lived in a horse stable turned into a makeshift apartment, and made enough money to buy duct tape to repair my clothes and shoes. I hardly ate but somehow I managed to get cigarettes to satisfy my hunger. Being an introvert I always strayed from meeting new people, until I met Sherwin. It has been 12 years since I met Sherwin, over that time we have become compeers and poetic brothers.

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