So, last week the theme was Verse Daily, and this week it's Poetry Daily with another poem from Red Army Red: "Five-Year Plan." Out of curiosity--and because I like to these kinds of debriefings, once a poem has its little corner of the world--I went back through my records, trying to remember when I wrote this poem, where I submitted it, and how it was finally accepted for publication.
And, here on this very blog, I found an entry from April 7, 2009, written during my annual attempt at NaPoWriMo: "Today, I felt a sonnet coming on. Since I'm still having fun exploring the connection between fascism and adolescence (within the context of my Red Army Red project), I've drafted fourteen lines that compare puberty to the infamous 'five-year plans' that were so common in the U.S.S.R. Only a week into NaPoWriMo, I'm already slap-happy with the pressure of producing a poem per day. So, who knows if the metaphor even works..."
I guess the metaphor did work eventually. Most of those drafts written during 2009's National Poetry Writing Month needed serious revision work in the weeks and months after. Many of those drafts eventually became a large chunk of Red Army Red. My advice for anyone foolhardy enough to do NaPoWriMo is this: write with a theme or subject in mind for the whole month. In 2009, I went into the month of April knowing that I would be writing poems that might fit into Red Army Red. It made the daily process of finding an idea (ugh, wretched phrase) a little easier, although the month remained exhausting nonetheless. The only poem that wrote itself was "Chernobyl Year," which quickly went from draft to publication in West Branch and a little later to Ted Kooser's American Life in Poetry. But most poems, as we know, are a slog, the drafting of each line look moving through thick, slurpy mud that impedes every step.
"Five-Year Plan" was published in The Cincinnati Review, one of my favorite journals, not only because it publishes wonderful poets--as well as a great feature in which several writers review the same book in the same issue--but also because it's simply a beautiful, glossy publication. This was one of the last publications of a poem from the collection, before Red Army Red became a real book that I could hold or put on my dining room table. Those under-the-wire publications are always exciting because they call attention to the ways in which a book of poems has many lives, existing for the poet (and maybe also for the reader) in many places and times.