In Country (BOA Editions, Ltd., 2018) available on Amazon or BOA Editions, Ltd.
This is a poetry of small detail and large design. At one level, the guns, wasted terrains, and grinding dailiness of violence surprise and engage. The meticulous craft of detail allows the reader to become both witness and participant. But at a deeper level, the true power and presence of this book, from poem to poem, lies in its offering of the unimaginable to imagination. These are certainly war poems, providing depth and texture to the category. But they are also proof of the hard-won accord that can exist between experience and language, which here lends a memorable force to so many of these poems.
With war, the imagination is drawn to spectacle, which these poems are not—and in that way, they help us to understand the unspectacular horror of the regular. ‘There was never that black bowling ball, a burning fuse / waving its tail,’ is clear enough, but followed with the more devastating extension of experience, ‘No bombs but / in things.’ These clearly important poems disabuse us from thinking of war as we may have—as games, as movies, as acts of what we are convinced is the imagination, having played war as kids. These poems change the reader by offering drama where it is least expected. They are not imagined. ALBERTO RIOS
The Stick Soldiers (BOA Editions, Ltd., 2013) available on Amazon or BOA Editions, Ltd.
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.
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.
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.
So, How Was the War? (Kent State University Press, 2010) available on Amazon or Kent State University Press.
Hugh Martin’s poems navigate the psychological terrain of war and its aftereffects. They offer insights into the soldier’s journey—filled with visions of sand storms and beheadings and hashish, ziplock bags full of Lifesavers given to Iraqi children. These poems also study the war that veterans carry home—to the surreal landscape of the Atlanta airport, pawn shops and liquor stores and Sharky’s Gentlemen’s Club, the bedrooms in the suburbs of America. Martin’s poems stand as a reminder that within the anonymity of the uniform there lives a human being.