Copy Change
Imitation is the most direct route to mastering a skill—just follow the master step- by-step and you're bound to get it. There's a long tradition of this in the arts. Go to a museum and you’re likely to find a student tracing someone else's moves.
     One specific exercise for practicing imitation is called "copy change." Basically, you borrow another writer's structure and use it as the skeleton for your own work. But isn't this plagiarism, you ask? You may find that the new poem takes on a life of its own, and becomes a very different work than the original. If there's no trace of the source, you don't need to give anyone else credit. If, on the other hand, evidence of the original structure remains, you should give a nod to the first writer in some way.

Daybreak in Alabama

Langston Hughes

When I get to be a composer

I'm gonna write me some music about

Daybreak in Alabama

And I'm gonna put the purtiest songs in it

Rising out of the ground like a swamp mist

And falling out of heaven like soft dew.

I'm gonna put some tall, tall trees in it

And the scent of pine needles

And the smell of red clay after rain

And long red necks

And poppy colored faces

And big brown arms

And the field daisy eyes

Of black and white black white black people

And I'm gonna put white hands

And black hands and brown and yellow hands

And red clay earth hands in it

Touching everybody with kind fingers

And touching each other natural as dew

In that dawn of music when I

Get to be a composer

And write about daybreak

In Alabama.

freakaz0... My copy-change poem from

"daybreak in alabama"?

"When i get to be an artist

i'm gonna paint me some pictures of

sunrise in seattle

and i'm gonna put the purtiest flowers

reaching out of the earth to kiss the blue sky

and petals soarin in the wind like birds.

i'm gonna add some red cedar trees

and the scent of fresh rain in the crisp cool grass

and the smell of that first day of spring

and vibrant humming birds flapping their wings

and dormant mt. rainier covered in powdered snow

and the quietness of the paws of the black bear

and the great big forests

of shades of green and brown green brown green brown trees

and i’m gonna put the broad aqua waterfront

and the blue sky and pink and orange dawn

and natures chromatic insects in it

helping out mother earth spread her beauty

and creating the attraction of the mother herself

in that break of day when i

get to be an artist

and paint about sunrise

in seattle"














Knoxville Tennessee  By Nikki Giovanni

I always like summer
you can eat fresh corn
From daddy's garden
And okra
And greens
And cabbage
And lots of
And buttermilk
And homemade ice-cream
At the church picnic
And listen to
Gospel music
At the church
And go to the mountains with
Your grandmother
And go barefooted
And be warm
All the time
Not only when you go to bed
And sleep


How To Eat A Poem                                            ~Eve Merriam

Don’t be polite.
Bite in.
Pick it up with your fingers and lick the juice
    that may run down your chin.
It is ready and ripe now, whenever you are.
You do not need a knife or fork or spoon
or plate or napkin or tablecloth.
For there is no core
or stem or rind or seed or skin
to throw away.

(If you choose this poem, you are going to have to add at least 2 more lines of your own as it is NOT 12 lines long. Sorry.)

I Hear America Singing  by Walt Whitman


I Hear America singing, the varied carols I hear;
Those of mechanics--each one singing his, as it should be, blithe and strong;
The carpenter singing his, as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his, as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work;
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat--the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck;
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench--the hatter singing as he stands;
The wood-cutter's song--the ploughboy's, on his way in the morning, or at the noon intermission, or at sundown;
The delicious singing of the mother--or of the young wife at work--or of the girl sewing or washing--Each singing what belongs to her, and to none else;
The day what belongs to the day--At night, the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing, with open mouths, their strong melodious songs.

Mother to Son by Langston Hughes


Well, son, I'll tell you:
Life for me ain't been no crystal stair.
It's had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor—
But all the time
I'se been a-climbin' on,
And reachin' landin's,
And turnin' corners,
And sometimes goin' in the dark
Where there ain't been no light.
So, boy, don't you turn back.
Don't you set down on the steps.
'Cause you finds it's kinder hard.
Don't you fall now—
For I'se still goin', honey,
I'se still climbin',
And life for me ain't been no crystal stair.


Assignment: Choose a poem with at least 12 lines that you will do a copy change for. You may choose one of these poems or choose one of your own. Imitate the style as closely as possible, but make it your own (meaning, don’t copy it too much). When you turn in your final draft in your project, don’t forget to include the original as the directions state.