October 24, 2018 at 3:02 pm

Martin’s Second Book, ‘In Country,’ Forthcoming in November

Hugh Martin, portrait

Hugh Martin

by Kristin Distel

Doctoral student Hugh Martin’s second book, a collection of poems titled In Country, is being published by BOA Editions.

The book draws heavily on Martin’s own experiences as an Iraq War veteran; he served six years in the Army National Guard as an M1A1 Tanker. In Country interrogates issues pertaining to the military, the Middle East, Sept. 11, and soldiering.

“I enlisted before 9/11, when people who joined the military didn’t expect to be deployed. The September 11 attacks occurred shortly afterward; the experience of going to Iraq and being in the military is the book’s focus. It especially examines encounters with Iraqi civilians, translators, and soldiers,” Martin states.

“Iraq Good,” one of the poems in the collection, was published in The Cincinnati Review and selected as a winner of the prestigious Pushcart Prize. The poem describes the potentially fraught relationship between American soldiers and Iraqi children.

The title of the collection, Martin explains, was originally used by soldiers serving in Vietnam. “The phrase In Country is shorthand that explains how long a soldier was overseas. It’s still used today to indicate how long a vet was in Iraq or another war zone,” he states.

A ‘Meticulous’ Book Containing ‘Obvious Masterpieces’

In Country has received terrific advanced praise from reviewers.

In Country is an astonishing tapestry. I know Randall Jarrell would have loved to review this book, detailing the half-dozen obvious masterpieces―insisting that human memory elevated by the most talented writers has something of the sacraments in it. Human, brilliant, this is truly yet another important book by Hugh Martin.” ―Norman Dubie

American flag book cover

Martin’s Second Book, ‘In Country’

“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 Ríos

“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.” ―Eavan Boland

Nonfiction Meets Poetry in Martin’s Work

Martin studies nonfiction writing in OHIO’s English department. He notes that nonfiction and poetry intersect and overlap in meaningful ways.

“These genres have similar traits in that they can effectively employ suggestion and subtlety, and they have a very specific focus on imagery and characters. Though they visually look different from one another, nonfiction and poetry achieve same effects,” he explains.

Funding from OHIO’s English Department summer scholarship program helped support the development of In Country. The scholarship allowed Martin to attend the 2017 William Joiner Conference at The University of Massachusetts Boston, which focused on war narratives and veterans’ writing, including the work of fellow Iraq War soldiers.

Book Release Party and Reading

The book’s release date is November 6; it is currently available for purchase on BOA Editions’ website. Martin will read from In Country at The Book Loft in Columbus on Wednesday, October 24. Additionally, a book release party will take place on November 16, 2018 at the Cleveland Market Garden Brewery.

Martin is the author of The Stick Soldiers (BOA Editions 2013, winner of the A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize) and So, How Was the War (Kent State University Press, 2010). A recipient of a Wallace Stegner Fellowship from Stanford University, a Sewanee Writers’ Conference Fellowship, and a Yaddo Residency, he was the inaugural winner of the Iowa Review Jeff Sharlet Award for Veterans. Additionally, he was the 2014-15 Emerging Writer Lecturer at Gettysburg College. Martin’s essays and poetry have appeared in PBS NewsHour, The New Yorker, The New York Times, Grantland, American Poetry Review, and The Kenyon Review.

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