Before you wear yourself out with a poetic style you don’t even like, consider the types of poetry you want to wear for reading. Is this the kind of poem you would like to put on or show off or quietly carry over your shoulder like a shawl?
Do you look good in colorful images?
Do you like to put on your dancing shoes of rhyme or regular rhyme?
Can you pull off wearing bling in flashy patterns of in end-line rhymes?
Do you prefer to tone down your poems by scattering rhyme freely into free verse, but not in predictable patterns?
If you’re more concerned about content, rather than a stylish form, tailor that preference to yourself, wearing either free verse or traditional metered poetry such as the sonnet, villanelle, or sestina. It just depends on what appeals to you. So whatever you want to wear, be sure the poetic style fits you.
Regardless of your shape or size, putting on an appealing poem might begin with a foundation of firm but willowy lines or with an artificial yet artistic means of getting those natural lines into a traditionally pleasing shape. Various schools of poetry may disagree, but either way works. So if you’re a highly gifted poet with a natural eye or ear for poetry, you and free verse may go nicely together. Or if you’re a highly gifted poet with a natural eye and ear, you might dress up well with an extraordinary use of traditional verse forms.
To wear your poems well, check the mirror for masters of that particular form or type of free verse. Don’t just study contemporary poets whose work you like the look of, but also scan old catalogs of classical poets who wrote with style throughout the centuries. Even if you opt for the bargain rack of packing rhyme, rhythm, imagery, and social commentary into the vintage pattern of a sonnet as countless poets have done, your voice, your fresh idea, your apt comparison, your poetic face can make an outmoded fashion look new and “in” again.
[This article by Mary Sayler, originally entitled "How To Wear A Poem," appeared 2010/01 on her blogIn a Christian Writer's Life.]