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Copy the old masters.

In the old painting studios or ateliers in Renaissance Italy or in Holland during the time of Rembrandt, the way that young painters would learn to paint would be to recreate what others before them had done. They would produce the same play of light and shadows. They would learn the brushstrokes that went into the masterpiece. In copying as exactly as possible, they would learn the mechanics of their discipline. Poets and writers can learn the same way.

Try taking a piece of poetry by someone you consider a great poet. Write the poetry out longhand. Maybe also type it on a computer or typewriter. Do you get a better feel for the poetry? What is the poetic form? What is the meter? The rhythm? How does the poet use vocabulary? Is the piece rhymed? Are any other poetic devices used? Analyze the poem after you've written it down. Does the poem tell a story? How does the form affect the content of the poem? Could the poem be re-written in another form? From a sonnet to haiku, for instance?

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