If Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, or any the other fine traditional poets of yesteryear, were alive today, he might not have the easiest time to get his work published in today’s markets. Why? Assuming there would be no other objection, like sentimentality, the strict traditional forms often placed more emphasis on form or structure than on the words. Inverted language (like reversing the natural order of subject/verb/object to object/subject/verb) to facilitate rhyme or contractions to accommodate the metrical beat or syllabic count is now considered contrived and archaic. However, keeping the important things in a predominantly free-verse world of poetry in mind, good rhyming poetry can be written today.
The biggest reason that “rhyming poetry” has fallen out of favor is that it is often forced and unnatural. Now throw in terrible metrical discipline (or a complete lack of it), which aggravates the sing-song “quality,” and the work will be on rapid express to the rejection folder.
So how is the rhyme issue dealt with? If the rhyme is not hard rhyme (like dove/love), but slant or half-rhyme (like wren/fend or ham/ban), or even consonantal rhyme (ruin/son), there might be a more natural feel to the rhyme. But that isn’t enough. The lines should not be deliberately end-stopped to facilitate the rhyme, but continued. To the ear, it will sound more like internal rhyme (but to the eye it will appear as some form of end rhyme). In a good rhyming poem, the reader might not even realize it is rhyming poem (until later).
What about the meter? A modern version of a traditional poem may preserve the structure and rhyme scheme, but the metric will be relaxed. It is wise to deliberately avoid a regular metrical arrangement, even though there might be passages of deliberate iambic tetrameter or whatever. But there still must be rhythm and flow. it’s like waves crashing on the shore. There is a rhythm, but the waves are not regular!
There are venues that do favor the so-called formal poetry (sonnets, villanelles, sestinas, etc.) such as Measure. And even other venues without a predisposition against these traditional forms or other rhyming poetry will publish them as long as they sound natural (and have the other things that make a poem a poem). For example, my poem, “Aurora in the Dawn” (Aurora in the Dawn Anthology, Aurora Wolf, August 2010), is a such a poem about survivors of a nuclear winter. The rhyme scheme, aabcc, is unobtrusive had I said nothing. I still like rhyming poetry. And no, rhyming poetry is not out. See for yourself:
Aurora in the Dawn
Sheer-black curtains the frozen tundra
and the lone white wolf ululates La Luna
hidden above the thick gray clouds.
And the stars, too, shed their drops
of light on the shroud of nimbus tops.
Remember the fire pinks, the honeysuckle,
the lavender and rose, the green and thistle
grass? Where have they gone? All gone
the skittering chickadees and warblers,
eagles, falcons, mockingbirds, no more.
There is no south to fly to for nuclear winter.
Tropical islands long since frozen, now under
pale glaciers floating in wine darkened seas,
no, just darkened. The sun had forgotten us.
So few of us left. It is cold in this loneliness.
But we warm by the fire and I hold your hand.
I kiss you. And I kiss you again. And again.
When I open my eyes, I stare at the gray,
waiting for the sky to tear, to shimmer dawn
and the hope of light, for the first shaft of sun.