15 March 2021
Posted by Megan Laing
On March 1st, I interviewed young poet Kaycee Hill about working with her mentor Aviva Dautch. Through my interviews on the Poetry Ambassadors project, I am beginning to understand the value of a mentor, and it was affirming to chat with Kaycee and hear about how she has been maturing and growing as a writer, and developing her writing style.
What would you consider your short-term goals, entering the mentoring programme, to be? And by short term, I mean this year.
“To acquire skills that will enable me to write not necessarily quicker, but to churn out good quality work at a quicker pace. That was something I felt like I was almost there but, before starting the programme, I wasn’t quite exactly where I wanted to be with that. Sometimes I would sit down to write and write something I would be really happy with. Then sometimes I would sit down to write and it just wasn’t happening for me like that so I definitely feel like even the couple of sessions that I’ve had with Aviva, her advice and her wisdom that she’s imparted onto me is really helping me with that already.”
What would you consider to be the personal benefits of the mentoring relationship and how does this adapt any of your goals?
“I think the main benefit is just having somebody who is of that caliber who has the knowledge of the scene and of the craft as well because, essentially, you are being privately, well, mentored. You are having that one on one time with somebody who knows what they’re doing and knows what they’re talking about. We very early on, in our initial meeting, decided that nothing was too much, you know. Throw me the challenges, through me the readings. The personal benefit is being able to actually have a mentor.”
I’ve had unofficial mentors throughout my life and during university when I was doing my poetry dissertation with extensive one-on-one work. But outside of the education environment, in terms of doing this as a career and getting your work ready to be seen in print. It’s invaluable. Actually having the mentorship and the one-on-one time.”
How do you think the guidance of a more experienced poet will impact your own writing process?
“It already has been! One of my processes that I’ve always, always done is I tend to only use lowercase, the little ‘i’ and that’s something that I’ve always done. Not just for the aesthetic but because I felt like that's what made poetry more inclusive. Me and Aviva actually had a very interesting conversation about how there are people who aren’t necessarily one hundred percent able to read the lines when there isn’t capitalization of the ‘i’ and other words. So while you think you’re being more inclusive, actually you can be a little bit elitist when you’re trying not to be, which gives me something massive to think about in terms of how I write poetry and how I thought about poetry as well.
We’re just going for it, full steam ahead. I guess it’s because there is a month in between meetings and we’re generating all these ideas and things so when we meet it’s like we can’t stop!”
What effect, if any, has the first meeting with your mentor had on your goals / writing process so far?
“I was writing and practicing writing daily beforehand but you always have that tiny bit of imposter syndrome that artists have. I think that particularly with lockdown and not being able to touch base with people and have people read my work and give feedback on my work, you do start to second guess yourself a little bit. But I feel like doing this programme and having Aviva reinforce to me that ‘no, you are good enough’ and ‘your work deserves to be seen’ but also things like ‘you know what you’re doing’, ‘you’ve put the time in for this’, ‘you’re the real deal’ . This is your reality now, you’re living and breathing your art.
I had finished uni and graduated during a pandemic where there weren’t any graduate opportunities - and, I know we do have to go out and make our own opportunities - [the mentoring programme] really did come at the best time for motivation, work ethic, all of it. Having Aviva read my work really lights a fire under me to make sure it’s good work .Because someone has set those challenges for you, you want to make sure it's worth their time to read your work, to critique your work, to get feedback on your work. So it’s definitely motivated me, inspired me and it’s been a really positive experience. I’m looking forward to seeing what the rest of it is going to be like.”
Looking forward, what are you most excited about in terms of your work?
“I’m most excited to just see how I grow. I felt like, before I had started the programme, that I had been on a bit of a journey to really see my writing and poetry begin to mature. Not mature in terms of theme, but in terms of where I wanted to be when I read my work, and when I read it, what I think of it as well. I guess maturity in a sense of ‘this person is ready to have their work seen by other people’, not just me then putting it away.
Kaycee Hill was awarded the University of Winchester Poetry Writing Award in 2020. She is also a regular contributor to G_IRL IN REAL LIFE Magazine, and has submitted small batches of poems to various magazines, including Poetry London, Ambit, Granta and Agenda, as well as entering the National Poetry Competition and the Eric Gregory Award.