We’ve all contemplated where our lives are headed, where we are going and who will join us on that long and winding road. Our futures are always in our own hands, yet seem to escape us every time. Looking ahead, moving forward and trudging through the peculiarities of life are staples of Neil Hilborn’s poetry.
Hilborn’s writing and performing of poetry began in 2009, and his craft only seems to expand exponentially throughout each book he publishes or reading he performs. His fourth book, “The Future,” was released on March 22, 2018 and is the culmination of years of precise handiwork and creativity. Hilborn’s “The Future” tells us what we need to hear, comforts, stings and adds a new hope for both readers and poets.
Hilborn’s previous work revolved heavily around themes that hit home for him: mental illness, heartbreak and fear. In “The Future,” Hilborn continues on those messages but his poetry has more prospect, confidence and vigor. He can see a life ahead of him and inspires his readers to look forward instead of back.
It is visible to the reader that Hilborn wrote this book while in transition, both literally and figuratively. He spent the last two years on tour and wrote the book during his travels. Hilborn struggled to find his way to do what he loves, writing and performing, as well as finding his way back to love and a place to call home. The rustic, transitory feeling of the poems rides on throughout the book. Hilborn brilliantly guides the reader through his exploration of self-discovery and emotion as he personally attends to his journey as well. He takes us across America with him poem by poem, and we see the world through his eyes in a scope of our own imaginations. Rather than being a bystander to his ups and downs, Hilborn carries readers along with him.
In the beginning of the book, Hilborn tells us that he wrote “The Future” on the road, performing his new poems on tour to help see what worked and what didn’t, as a means of tailoring his poetry for both him and the reader. It was built from the feedback of his audience, and it is always evident that he aims to indulge the readers in his work. “The Future” is for his audience as much as it is for him.
Hilborn masters the art of both comedy and tragedy. His poetry can make a reader laugh on one page and cry on the next. Hilborn ignites a delicious nostalgia, as if warming the reader’s soul with comfort food and warm blankets. Then almost immediately he rips the blanket from around your shoulders and makes you feel the cold of Indianapolis, Minnesota or wherever he felt lonely on the road. We experience his heartbreak, his homesickness and loss all the way through to his redemption of himself and those around him. He unites us all in this book by showing that we’re all lonely sometimes, but we are on this ride together, and “everyone is slowly drifting toward everyone else.”
His excellence in form pushes the reader forward as much as his content drives them. He shifts poetic line lengths and breaks in a calculated, poignant way. His line breaks are all intentional; he knows when and where to stop you in your tracks or drag you through a poem. Hilborn knows when to write in tercets, in quintets or even paragraphs-whichever will hit the heart the hardest. He also demonstrates his further progression by coining more incredible one liners, packing a punch within his hectic poetic journey. He takes us from lines like “I am just carbon and bad timing,” in “Our Numbered Days” to “The future is a blue sky and a full tank of gas.” His new-found hope rings true all the way to the end of the book.
Hilborn’s mastery of language, metaphor, comedic timing, tragic reality and poeticism shine in this new book. It’s a new Hilborn on a fresh page with an optimism on mental health and life not previously seen. “The Future” is at once personal, private, and public with his heart on his sleeve, pouring into the book on every page. “The Future” is an inside look at Hilborn’s brain, similar to that of “Our Numbered Days” but with more courage, more spunk and more hope. Buy “The Future” on Amazon or Buttonpoetry.com!