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November 10, 2019 at 9:37 am

NEA Talks to Martin on ‘Searing Imagery that Captures the Pathos and Atmosphere of War’

Hugh Martin, portrait

Hugh Martin

Hugh Martin joined the Ohio Army National Guard about three months before 9/11. In 2004 he was deployed to Iraq.

The National Endowment for the Arts’ blog published an interview in time for Veterans Day with Hugh Martin about his poetry and the “searing imagery that captures the pathos and atmosphere of war.”

Martin is now an English graduate student at Ohio University and an NEA Literature Fellow.

American flag book cover

Martin’s Second Book, ‘In Country’

Martin’s work, including his recent book In Country, draws on his experiences as an Iraq War veteran. He served six years in the Army National Guard as an M1A1 Tanker. In Country is a full-length poetry collection in which “the speaker journeys through training to deployment and back again, returning home to reflect on the soldiers and civilians—both memories and ghosts—left behind.”

Martin told NEA writer Rebecca Sutton that “poetry was the first medium that I came to as far as trying to think about my experience and reflect upon it. I became very comfortable with thinking about imagery, thinking about short scenes, thinking about persona of certain speakers, and trying to capture something with as little language as possible.”

Sutton notes, “It’s difficult to imagine finding poetry in makeshift latrines or tear gas basic training, but Hugh Martin has done it. A 2019 Literature Fellow, Martin transforms his sometimes putrid, sometimes traumatic, and frequently wrenching experiences serving in Iraq with the National Guard into searing imagery that captures the pathos and atmosphere of war.”

During the long-ranging interview, Martin told Sutton, “Over the next year, I’m planning to arrange certain trips to go speak to Iraqis and talk to other veterans. I’m planning to use the time I spend with them and the interviews I do and the research I do to not only write more poetry, but also to do some more nonfiction type of work. I’ve done some of that work already in preparation and talking over email and online, but this specific funding from the NEA will allow me to make those travels. It’s giving me that time to conduct those interviews.”

About Hugh Martin

Martin was awarded a 2019 National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship in Poetry. The National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowships program offers generous grants to published creative writers that enable recipients to set aside time for writing, research, travel, and general career advancement. Applications are reviewed through an anonymous process in which the only criteria for review are artistic excellence and artistic merit.

Martin is the author of In Country (BOA Editions 2018), 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. His poem, “Iraq Good,” was awarded a Pushcart Prize in 2018. 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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