Whether it’s slam poetry or a simple Haiku, poetry has been a form of expressing emotions for centuries. On Saturday, Feb. 10, poet Neil Hilborn came to the Night Owl Café at Keene State College. Completing multiple American as well as world tours, Hilborn has become the most watched poet ever. His poetry consists of comical poems like “rejected Tinder bios,” but also more serious issues such as his personal battles against mental illness. Hilborn was introduced to poetry at a young age by his mother and began writing shortly after. “My mom read poems to me a lot as bedtime stories. It just seemed like a natural way to think about language for me. I wrote my first poem when I was about eight.”
From there, Hilborn started creating his poetry whenever he found inspiration. Hilborn explained his two different sources of inspiration when writing his poetry. “To me there are two different kinds of inspiration, along with two different writing processes. There’s the one you always hope for, like that lightbulb moment, which always happens when I’m doing something else. Like I’m biking or washing dishes; doing something that’s taking up my attention. Then my brain is like, ‘You have to write things right now,’ and I’m like, ‘Cool brain! Yes, I do!’ But I can’t depend on that. It’s not super common,” Hilborn said.
His second method, Hilborn explained, is getting inspiration for other authors and their poetry. “So usually what I do is I take whatever poetry book I’m into and I just read, and I dissect, and I think about it too f—— hard until I find a line, or an image, or a structure I want to steal it and I’ll steal it,” Hilborn joked. “It’s all about consuming the art form. How else am I going to learn new ways to write if I don’t see the ways other people are writing,” Hilborn explained.
The audience was filled with KSC students eager to see the slam poet. Junior Randii Elie, who has been watching Hilborn online for 6 years, expressed her excitement seeing him perform live. “I’m a huge fan, I’ve been watching Neil since I was 14. This was like a once in a lifetime opportunity to watch him,” Elie continued. “It was a bit of an emotional catharsis. There is something completely different about getting to see it and hear it, rather than watch it online.”
Sharing a similar opinion was sophomore Sara Olson. Olson was also familiar with Hilborn’s poetry., “I love Neil Hilborn and watched him on YouTube before. I’m a big fan. His poetry makes me feel like there are people like me in the world,” Olson said.
Although much of Hilborn’s poetry centers around the ideas of mental illness, Hilborn often jokes about his own struggles, and incorporates them into this poetry. The concept of being about to laugh at yourself is something Hilborn hopes his fans will take away from his poetry. Hilborn explained, “It’s okay not to take yourself so seriously all the time. I talk about a bunch of heavy stuff like depression and suicide. I think there’s something to be said about uncutting the seriousness of what you’re going through, while also acknowledging the darkness. I think balance is important,” Hilborn added. “Don’t take yourself seriously all the time because it can be therapeutic finding ways to laugh at yourself.” Hilborn has a new poetry book titled “Future” is coming out on Apr. 6 and begins a national tour on Feb. 15.
Erin McNemar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org