Regardless of your shape or size, putting on an appealing poem begins with a foundation of naturally 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 will probably go nicely together. Or, if you’re a highly gifted poet with a natural eye and poetic ear, you might dress up well with an extraordinary use of traditional verse forms.
Before you wear yourself out with a poetic style you don’t like, consider what types of poetry you most like to wear when you’re reading. Is this the type 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 those colorful images? Do you like to put on your dancing shoes of rhyme or regular rhyme? Can you pull off wearing bling in the sometimes flashy patterns of in end-line rhymes? Or do you prefer to tone it down by scattering rhyme freely into free verse, but not in predictable patterns?
If you’re more concerned about content, rather than a stylish form, you can tailor that preference to yourself too, 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.
As you learn 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 price 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.
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