"a wrenching, rewarding first book."
The Plain Dealer
"Martin comes out of the desert a soldier's poet."
"...thoughtful recollections, scary memories, articulate reflections, and the resolve of a man who has been there."
"Martin pays attention to soldiers, the utter tedium and absolute deadliness of war, tattooed psalms, 'IED, RPG, / small arms, / car bomb-- / things to be avoided.' In a world we might only imagine, we shouldn’t have poems about war. It is embarrassing to admit we’re not better than what we are…The former Poet Laureate, Ted Kooser, noted that much of the poetry to emerge immediately following September 11, 2001, even from 'our most accomplished poets, wasn’t very compelling, mostly because it was based upon the nation’s common, collective, general experiences of that day.' Kooser makes a cogent point about the dearth of that generalized experience but he was getting at the importance of paying attention to the world in a way that doesn’t collapse into solipsistic, confessional poetry… Kooser praises and encourages poets to practice careful, 'impersonal observation,' what he calls spying. Martin’s poems showcase his talent for this level of examination. These poems reveal Iraq in all its real and imagined dangers in a language that is somber, angry, deeply reflective, but also intensely, if not darkly humorous."
War, Literature & the Arts
"This is as good as first books get… the idea that poetry can invest and transport in terms of an unlikely experience is now almost lost. Nineteenth century readers of poetry would queue up for blocks in front of the book-stalls of London publishers. Please now look at the games our children play off computer screens and ask, How can war be an unlikely experience for anyone in our culture? Hugh Martin has an answer for us."
"I am glad and made better by having Hugh Martin's version of the war in these poems, especially for their unabashed intimacy. But they are more importantly brilliantly muted poems, illustrative of the dullness that overcomes most soldiers in war; a necessary numbing of the senses that allows the temporary survival of trauma. To accomplish this difficult task and take on the responsibility of speaking for the dead and the maimed demands a finely tuned and selfless sense of craft, and that is abundant in these poems as well, with the poet's subtle regard for a wide variety of figures of speech powerfully driven by the facts of war. Overall The Stick Soldiers is a wonderfully unconscious account of the terrible transformative power of war; poem by poem it is a sharply focused consideration of the place of our humanness in war. This is the poetry of witness in its finest and most genuine form and it is, whether we like it or not, necessary for our survival."
"Here's eleven months worth of sawdust and sweat, dear reader. Somehow, Hugh Martin has wrung poetry from a scab, and now, the full shock and beauty and mystery of the things of war that won't let go will stick to you."