October 24, 2014
A new Marginalia, Los Angeles Review of Books essay by Christopher Kempf discusses the art of war poetry, looking to five “critically-regarded books of poetry by veterans” which have been “released by distinguished presses”: Hugh Martin’s The Stick Soldiers (BOA, 2013); Here, Bullet and Phantom Noise by Brian Turner; Bangalore by Kerry James Evans; and Letter Composed During a Lull in the Fighting by Kevin Powers.
According to Kempf, we can better understand, “through poetry, ‘the causes and the crimes’” of conflict.” He adds, “the relationship between war and its poetic representation is also one of poetry’s newest, most pressing problems, particularly at a time when our own War on Terror continues to render language itself suspect.”
“Martin’s book, The Stick Soldiers, released in 2013, is filled with this kind of comédie noire, a knowing authority which seems deeply suspicious not only of its own attempts to reduce the war to language but also of the capacity of its civilian audience to comprehend this language.”
The review compares Martin to renowned author Brian Turner: “Both of these poets style themselves as reluctant witnesses to a historical event irreducible to language, an event that at once resists poeticization and yet, given the current vogue for veterans’ poetry, seems remarkably generative of it.”
Called “the most complex of these veteran poets,” Martin is noted for his “treatment of the War on Terror’s collateral damage … Rather than glossing over the violence elided by other veteran poets, Martin self-consciously renders his own titillated witness to this violence, suggesting the mediation implicit in any attempted witness to war … Martin gestures in these poems, as his fellow veteran poets rarely do, toward his own active yet self-critical participation in the War of Terror.”
It’s Dodge Poetry Festival weekend, and Hugh Martin will be a special guest, reading with a veterans’ writing group, and with Yusef Koumnyakaa and Brian Turner, on Saturday night (October 25). Don’t miss it! Click here for more details.