Ok, so I *do* know enough basic html to write a boring late 90s style website from scratch, and BHD’s advice makes no sense to me.
I’ve worked with a few different content management systems on websites I manage and with a lit magazine where I was an editor. Most CMS have both a WYSIWYG and a source editor, and the second is where one would input html.
Medium appears to only have a very basic WYSIWYG editor. One cannot insert html directly into that. If there is a second text-based editor that allows one to edit the source directly that is native to Medium, it is well hidden. I’ve searched the help documentation for any mention of it and cannot find one.
I suspect to get the level of formatting control Mike Essig is asking for *currently*, one would have to implement a third party solution not native to Medium.
A quick google shows that there may be toolbar extensions available for various browsers that could achieve this… I’m not inclined to download random third party software at the moment, however, to check ;-)
Publishing content on another platform like Wordpress first and cross-posting to Medium might also be a solution since Wordpress DOES give users the ability to directly input html. (Assuming the Wordpress formatting is preserved when the post is imported.) Info on using Wordpress with Medium can be found here.
Note that any third party solution would make it difficult to share unpublished drafts with other uses directly within Medium and probably wouldn’t be viable for posts being submitted to publications. It’s definitely an imperfect workaround.
The reason for Medium not making using html easy is probably due to the fact that it has the potential to disrupt the viewing experience (in either deliberately malicious or unintended ways) for readers using a variety of browsers, screen resolutions, apps, and operating systems. The WYSIWYG on Medium is deliberately simple in order to control aesthetics. It just sucks for poets. I do wonder, however, how well even using HTML to create varying indentations would work across the variety of devices out there. If the visual presentation of a poem is important, creating an image of that poem is the safest way to ensure integrity.