"Roses Are Grey. Violets Are Grey. I'm A Dog" - Dog's Poetry
Neil Hilborn's poems are entirely about his issues with mental health, or the ones I've read at least. I've said this many times but I tend to gravitate towards poems that I can more closely relate to, and this one hit the nail on the head when I read it. When choosing a poem for this blog I wasn't in the greatest state of mind. To be frank with you, I was probably in the worst state of mind. I understood this poem on some level, but as things get better I realize that I won't ever truly relate to this poem in it's entirety.
The poem is about how his moments of joy never last. It begins by explaining that he can't experience joy.
"So because of the chemical imbalance, I don't really experience
joy. There's no bright morning
in a bright summer..."
Then, abruptly, he cuts to the moment of joy, explaining instantly that it doesn't last.
"...What strong river or arm of wind. The moments, when they do arrive on their slow boats,
fall apart as soon as the light
I think what caught my attention in this poem originally, aside from the first line, was the structure of how he wrote it. The poem reads like thoughts, reflecting how one might think in a state similar to what Hilborn experiences constantly. However, as I read on, I noticed that the tone is what really draws me in.
This poem causes the reader to feel joyful, but also melancholy at the same time. There is a strict contrast between describing the moment of joy, and the feeling after, and it's evident in the way he jumps from one to the other.
"...Always it's in
a car, always the windows down,
always the music too loud, it's never
apparent that none of us can sing.
The way cotton candy falls to its knees
at the suggestion of rain is the only thing
I've found to describe remembering,
after you've just been happy,
all the things that make you less
Hilborn describes how he lives with bipolar disorder in many of his poems. I myself experience issues with depression, what connected with me in this poem is his ability to explain the feeling of a mood swing accompanied by that feeling of dread.
"I want to see one and be able to go "yes, that's exactly what I think about that" but Neil Hilborn is too hard for that."
A text I wrote to my girlfriend in the middle of the school day one day later than this blog was due. I kept looking for the poem, eventually she suggested THE FUTURE, I had actually forgotten that I had read that one already..
I've been in a slump lately. Nothing is really satisfying, I can't seem to find the motivation to get my work done on time, and I've been thinking a lot lately about what the hell I'm doing with my life. If I wanted this to sound profound and motivating, I could say "this poem was the answer to all of it, this poem changed my outlook" etc etc. But that's not it, at most this poem is a beginning to an epiphany, or the answer to all of my life questions, though I'm not sure I'll every really get an answer to all of that.
Neil Hilborn talks about Bipolar Disorder in his poem THE FUTURE, and I honestly can't tell if most of the poem is hyperbole or actually true but thats the point. THE FUTURE is about the complexities of a mental health disorder and how we view them. Some people with mental health problems would want them gone, or would describe them as an issue. But Hilborns poem explains how that would completely alter his life and personality.
"I'd still be me but I'd be so boring"
Poetry has always been a little too ambiguous. For me, a poem must be relatable in some way in order to understand it or more so, to analyze it. So finding one that I can relate to, and be long enough for a worthwhile analysis proved difficult when consulting the four poetry collections at my disposal. Flipping through milk and honey by Rupi Kaur, a well known yet possibly overused poetry collection, I stumbled upon "how we make up". What intrigued me about this poem was not only its style and length but that it was not relatable in the sense of the concrete ending point of this poem. This paved the pathway to the deep lengthy analysis I was so desperate to write.
I questioned choosing this poem for a school analysis because of its vulgar content but I felt that there was a stronger root than just that, there's more meaning and depth than just "make up sex". My AP Lit teacher talked about how poetry doesn't shy away from topics or contexts like this, and how we can choose not to indulge in analyzing or commenting on such poems if we didn't want to. So I decided I would like to explore it regardless, hoping to open up the less vulgar meaning of such a provocative poem.
New love is an adventure that is bound to end, eventually what most consider the "honeymoon stage" wears off. Couples will become more comfortable with each other, there are less romantic moments, occasions, and adventures and more mundane days the longer you're together. This causes tensions to build as you start to view your partner without the rose colored glasses, which could make or break the relationship depending on how you handle them. The first two stanzas of this poem talk about this while also setting up the context of the situation. The quote "we've been arguing more than we ought to. about things neither of us remember or care about cause that's how we avoid the bigger questions. instead of asking why we don't say i love you to another as often as we used to.", sets up this context, talking about the small things yet avoiding why it feels different than it used to, then leads to "and everything is on the table tonight" where the tensions break and turns to a full blown argument.
From the readers perspective the poem could go two ways, heartbreak or healing. As I mentioned, the tensions could make or break the relationship depending on how you handle it. The third stanza begins the shift towards healing in their situation. "i know. i know... i love you so much. i'm sorry i thought you were lying." But of course the tension isn't resolved (and -spoiler alert- isn't technically fully resolved by the ending of the poem, but I digress) which is addressed in the fourth stanza, and the climax (no pun intended) of the whole poem is reached at "but don't kid yourself. no matter how bad it gets we both know you still want to nail me to the ground"
It is at this point the poem caught my attention, but not in the vulgar sense. This line makes a point, it is meant to create surprise, clearly with the sudden sexual content. This is when it suddenly became relatable, because what it actually says, is "no matter what, we will get through every issue". We understood that the tension dissipated at "i love you so much", but it wasn't until "but don't kid yourself" that we see the whole situation change. While it is never really resolved, the anger melts away.
What I gather from the rest of the poem is that there is always something more important than the current argument, and always a way to fix it. The poem continues through their way of dismantling the problem, and exploring the passion of the honeymoon stage. "and the fire trucks come rolling in to save us but they can't distinguish whether these flames begin with our anger or our passion." Though the poem is specific about their solution, everyone will have their own unique approach.
I remember when I went to the Louvre. It was everything you'd expect it to be. The mesmerizing palace it was built as. However, when you're jet lagged, sitting on the lobby floor trying not to fall asleep, that palace just becomes another building. To keep myself awake I watched the people walk by. I was reminded that they are more than just a face in the crowd, they have their own lives and thoughts and ideas like me. So when Clint Smith says,
"and sometimes I look at you
Loving dogs and poetry. What else could I need?