Neil Hilborn slams love on Valentine’s Day at IWU

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By: Stephanie Vargas, News Editor

Viral slam poet Neil Hilborn spent his Valentine’s Day with Illinois Wesleyan University (IWU) students.
Registered Student Organization (RSO) Lyrical Graffiti hosted Hilborn in the Hansen Student Center, and over 40 students attended the event. Prior to Hilborn’s show, a variety of student performers took the stage. “We had student performers who frequently attend our monthly open mics on campus, a poet and freestyle rapper from Illinois State and a slam poet from Heartland Community College,” Co-President of Lyrical Graffiti Jon Recchia said. “We will continue to work this time in for speakers to campus in the future.”

Hilborn went viral for his Button Poetry performance of his poem “OCD,” which has over 13 million views on YouTube. Hilborn said that “OCD” is a poem he cannot ever get tired of because he owes his success to it. According to Hilborn, his Button Poetry performance was going to be his last performance of the poem, but it took off after being posted to YouTube.

Many speculated on the difficulties of getting Hilborn to perform at IWU, but the timing seemed to work in IWU’s favor. “Neil Hilborn is currently on an American tour and had his first stop in Chicago the day after our event,” Recchia said. “We contacted him. He said he’d come down and do a show for us, and the rest is history.”
A theme with many of Hilborn’s poems is mental illness. His last poem of the evening was titled “The Future,” and it follows Hilborn’s experience with bipolar disorder.
“I got a chance to meet the man behind the deeply emotional poems on suicide and life,” freshman Tim Hughes said. “His other poems went beyond those dark subjects.”

The show falling on Valentine’s Day allowed Hilborn to perform numerous poems about how love sucks. During his performance he commented on the complexities of dating a poet. “We’ll just like steal your car and write a poem about how you’re a jerk,” Hilborn said.
Students enjoyed hearing Hilborn’s work. “It was a really unique and engaging experience,” sophomore Kelsey Browning said. “I brought friends who aren’t usually interested in that kind of thing, and they loved it as well. He was able to make humor of bad situations through his poetry.”
Following the show Hilborn stuck around to speak with students and sell copies of his latest book, “The Future.”