You can find Neil Hilborn on Youtube and his amazing poem titled “OCD,” a story about a man and his struggle between disability and love. Hilborn’s poem has reached over eight million views and counting, as poetry fans everywhere can now listen to Hilborn’s poetic work on his new album Northbound which released this year in August.
The album title Northbound is a reflection of Hilborn’s transition and transformation as an artist living in Texas and moving to Minnesota. He shares,
“I spend a lot of time traveling—my full-time job is as a touring poet—so I wanted the album and the title to contain the idea of motion. I moved when I was eighteen, and it was then when I really developed as a writer, why I got in to spoken word poetry, and why any of the poems on the album exist. Had I not been, at one point in my life, Northbound, I would not be who I am today. Also, on a more dorky level, one of my favorite songs is “Land Locked Blues” by Bright Eyes, so I enjoy the double meaning of “bound” as both “stuck in” and “headed to.”
Hilborn’s album is a collection of twenty recorded poems exploring themes around romance, social commentary, childhood, and his life as an artist. As heavy and as personal as these topics may seem, Hilborn has mastered the art of humor and satire, allowing himself and his listeners to ease their way into serious issues. At the beginning of each poem you immediately want to grab the kleenex box and flush out the tears, but it’s through Hilborn’s comedic projection that allows his listeners to cope with his personal darkness.
“I’ve been reading and writing poetry my whole life, but a big part of my work in the past few years has been learning how to be funny, both on the page and in performance. My biggest comedic influence is Tina Fey. I’ve watched 30 Rock endlessly, and I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve listened to her audiobook of Bossypants. She has this move where she uses double punch lines: the first punch line is funny, but maybe a little expected, and then the second punch line is so outlandish and fresh that you have to pause Netflix so you won’t drown out the next joke by laughing. I’ve also studied Mitch Hedberg for his one-liners and weirdness; Amy Poehler for her simultaneous silliness and sincerity; Bo Burnham for his zero to sixty back to zero delivery; and Tracy Morgan for his slyness and almost-deadpan sensibilities. This is not, however, to discount the comedy I’ve learned from poets. Poets like Jeffrey McDaniel and Catie Rosemurgy manage to be simultaneously hilarious, bizarre, and imagistic, and I try to construct both my jokes and images in a similarly tight and clean manner.
Everyone has their own methods of coping, but I think that everyone, at some point, uses humor. I find that humor helps me not take myself so seriously; as long as I am stuck in my head and only focusing on how much I hate what is happening, I can’t move on. If I’m focusing on how to make someone not only understand what’s happening in my head, but also laugh at it, that’s when I can start to heal.”
So how can future listeners prepare to hop on board the emotional and hilarious roller coaster found in Hilborn’s new album? Hilborn recommends the following:
“Don’t take yourself too seriously; nothing is a waste of time if you learn something; it takes way too much energy to hate stuff; sometimes the funniest things are also the dumbest; love and forgive yourself, goddamnit!”
We asked Hilborn what his future plans include and they are as follows:
“Right now I’m on a pretty long tour leg—I left home on October 1st and I am going home November 7th—so for the foreseeable future I’m going to be driving/flying around the country/world and doing poems. I’m also working on a new book! It’s called Our Numbered Days, and it’s coming out on Button Poetry Press, tentatively in February. I think it’s really good and I hope everyone else does too.”
You can buy Neil Hilborn’s album on the Button Poetry website:
And while you’re at it, check out more of Button Poetry’s video’s on Youtube!
They’re sure to knock your socks off!