After you find your voice, you realize there's really only one person to imitate, and that's yourself. You do it by combining different influences. I think the first part of it is you do slavish imitations, which are almost like travesties, you know. But gradually you come under the right influences, picking and choosing, and being selective, and then maybe your voice is the combination of six or eight other voices that you have managed to blend in such a way that no one can recognize the sources. You can take intimacy from Whitman, you can learn the dash from Emily Dickinson...you can pick a little bit from every writer and you combine them. This allows you to be authentic. That's one of the paradoxes of the writing life: that the way to originality is through imitation.
-- Billy Collins