Writing Prompt: Copy by Hand

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I’m reading Robert Pinsky’s poetry writing guide called Singing School, in which he recommends the following idea. I had done this during my late high school/early college years although I didn’t yet grasp the benefits of this practice.

Create a book dedicated to the poems you love. The ones that inspire you and make you laugh. Copy out the poems by hand, taking care to notice how the poet’s choices in line breaks, diction, figurative language and so on are different from your own style. I got myself a fancy journal specifically for this purpose (but you can use a composition notebook in a pinch). The writing out by hand is an important detail. Your body remembers muscle movement… and recasting these poems in your own hand will make the book more personal to you.

I started my book today, with a selection from William Carlos Williams’s “Asphodel, That Greeny Flower.” I first wrote it in a high school journal and have carried in the back of my mind for decades. It seemed like a good poem to christen my new journal. What is your first poem going to be?     

-Josh Medsker

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