On the evening of April 15, famous poet Neil Hilborn performed in front of a large audience at the University of Maine’s Memorial Union.
According to the event’s Facebook page, Hilborn is a College National Poetry Slam Champion. In 2013 his poem, “OCD,” was featured in news outlets such as The Huffington Post and National Public Radio (NPR). Since its release, the poem has gained popularity and has accumulated more than 10 million views on YouTube.
“I went to the spring slam a couple of weeks ago, and they said that he was coming, and I was like, ‘Oh who’s that?’” UMaine ecology and environmental sciences student, Shireen Luick, said. “I looked him up, and he has that OCD poem that I have seen before and obviously it’s such a great poem.”
The event, which was presented by the UMaine Campus Activities Board (CAB) and the UMaine Office of Campus Activities and Student Engagement (CASE), started off with several UMaine students reading their literary work to the audience, ranging from poems that were recently written to pieces that have been published.
After the students read their pieces, Hilborn took the stage and performed for over an hour. He performed at UMaine two years ago, but still had plenty of energy to perform in front of the familiar crowd. He recited poems that were both old and new, published and unpublished. Hilborn brought humor to topics from hipsters to the history of punk rock. The second half of the show, however, was more serious, and the poems dealt with darker material such as mental health, depression and anxiety.
“I wasn’t expecting him to be so funny,” Luick said. “Obviously some of his best poems are really intense, hard-hitter sort of poems. It’s nice to see someone do the funny thing, but then be able to reel it in and then make you cry.”
“I liked how into it he was,” UMaine social work student, Casey Rogers, said. “You could just tell all of him was into it.”
After the performance was over, Hilborn stuck around the North Pod to talk to audience members. Hilborn brought his recent book, “Our Numbered Days,” which features his published poems. His book was available for purchase, as were posters. Many of the audience members purchased his book and waited in a long line patiently to get it signed, as well as take pictures and make conversation with Hilborn.
For those who couldn’t attend the poetry reading, “Our Numbered Days” is available for purchase online at buttonpoetry.com for $15.
“I don’t write poetry myself, but I do like reading poetry and watching it online,” Rogers said. “It’s just kind of a nice break. It’s always refreshing, and it clears my mind.”
“Obviously at school you are constantly thinking about, especially as math and science majors, like numbers and labs, and stuff like that, and it’s nice to come something to like this and listen to a slam poem,” Luick said.