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The Stick Soldiers

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The Stick Soldiers

By: Hugh Martin

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Winner of the A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize
With a Foreword by Cornelius Eady

At age nineteen, Hugh Martin withdrew from college when his National Guard unit was activated for a deployment to Iraq. After training at Fort Bragg, Martin spent eleven months in Iraq as the driver of his platoon sergeant’s Humvee. He participated in hundreds of missions including raids, conducting foot patrols, clearing routes for IEDs, disposing of Unexploded Ordnance, and searching thousands of Iraqi vehicles. The poems in his Poulin Prize-winning debut collection recount his time in basic training, his preparation for Iraq, his experience withdrawing from school, and ultimately, the final journey to Iraq and back home to Ohio.

 

 

 

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“Here’s nine 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.”

—Cornelius Eady, from the Foreword

“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."

—Norman Dubie

Excerpt from The Stick Soldiers


The Stick Soldiers

To soldiers, I hope the war is fine.
—Girl Scout Troop 472


The children colored the cards,
dated from December,
with Christmas trees, piles of presents,
snowmen smiling, waving. Sara wants
a doll. Evan, a dog. Kyle promises
to pray for us.

Outside the hooch, we open mail,
hundreds of letters
from youth groups, scout troops,
classes of school children.

Kearns wants to write back,
ask for pictures
of older sisters.

We tape our favorites to the door.
In blue crayon, a stick-figure soldier poses
as he’s about to toss
a black ball,
fuse burning,
at three other stick figures,
red cloth wrapped over faces,
Iraki written
across stick chests.

In Jalula, the children draw us pictures, too.

In white chalk, on concrete walls,
a box-shaped Humvee with two antennae
rising like balloons from the hatch.
A stick soldier holds a machine gun;
he waves at us,
us, in the Humvees.

Further down the wall, a stick man holds
an RPG
aimed toward the Humvee,
the waving soldier’s head—
what the children want for Christmas,
or what they just want.

About the Author

Hugh Martin was born in northeast Ohio in 1984 and attended Nordonia High School.   He joined the Army National Guard in June of 2001 (four months prior to 9/11) and—after graduating from Nordonia in May of 2002—completed basic and AIT training at Fort Knox, Kentucky, as an M1A1 Tanker. In the fall of 2003, Martin withdrew from Muskingum University when his unit was activated and deployed to northeastern Iraq for approximately eleven months.  He returned home in January of 2005, completed his BA in English at Muskingum in 2009, worked in Ireland on a work visa in 2010, completed his MFA at Arizona State in May of 2012, and was a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University.

Additional Information

Authors Hugh Martin
Edition Paperback
ISBN 9781938160066
Publish Date April 16, 2013

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