With a title like “OCD,” I expected Neil Hilborn’s poem to be meaningful, but I definitely wasn’t expecting the strength of its emotional impact. The speaker immediately identifies himself as the one with obsessive compulsive disorder by describing his “tics” and his constant stream of thoughts. So right away, the speaker shows us this vulnerable side of himself, which creates a more intimate relationship between him and the listener.
The form of this poem was a prominent reason why this poem was so authentic. Hilborn wrote the poem in free verse and as one large stanza. This almost mirrors the speaker himself, because as someone with OCD, his mind is constantly churning out thoughts and never giving him a rest. The single stanza, free verse form allows readers to understand what it’s like to be in the speaker’s mind.
Lineation was another aspect of this poem that was crucial, as punctuation played a huge role in conveying the speaker’s tics. The dashes between repeated phrases make you pause as you’re reading and add emphasis to the repetition, giving a better understanding of the speaker’s OCD. I think the juxtaposition of the speaker turning the lights off and on constantly with the last line of the poem where he says “I leave the lights on” is one of the most impactful parts of the poem. He seems accepting of his OCD and himself in general throughout the poem, and the final two lines show how lost he is now that his love has left him.
Sound became much more apparent when I watched Hilborn reciting his poem. Poems are a lot like plays because you can read them silently one way, but you have to make careful decisions about how you decide to read them out loud. When Hilborn read his poem out loud, you could hear how he emphasized certain words and just generally sounded desperate and passionate. It was also interesting to see his tics portrayed because while I read them as pauses with the dashes, he quickly sped through the tics in his speech. However, he also paused after certain phrases to emphasize them as well. Hilborn reciting his poem out loud really added to the emotional impact of his poem because you could hear the desperation in his voice and truly hear how his OCD and past relationship affect him.
Source: Hilborn, “OCD”