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Poet Neil Hilborn finds humor even in the sadness

Laughter and smiles filled Slosberg Recital Hall last Saturday night, March 11 as Neil Hilborn took the mic and recited poems from his book, “Our Numbered Days.”

His poems focus on relationships, heartbreak and the difficulties of having obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and bipolar disorder. At age 11, Hilborn was diagnosed with both OCD and bipolar disorder. Despite having a “depressing life,” as he calls it, his poems provide a sense of comic relief.

Neil Hilborn made the crowd of students and adults laugh with his opening poem, “OCD.” The poem recounts Hilborn’s experience of being in a relationship while having OCD. A video of Hilborn reciting this poem on Youtube has reached over 12 million views.

The one poem that left the audience in stitches was “Rejected Ideas for Tinder Profile.” The poem is a list of bios for a Tinder profile that is intended to drive potential matches away. For example, one of the bios read, “ Ain’t no party like an anxiety party because an anxiety party will kill you!”

Other poems deal with his mental illness and depression. “Joey,” for example, is a poem in which Hilborn expresses his sympathy for those who feel depressed and tormented inside but cannot afford to get help. After reciting the poem, Hilborn encouraged people with mental illness to take advantage of any help they may have access to. “I was fortunate enough to have parents that could afford to pay a therapist to help me,” he noted. “Because of the help I received, I have been able to tame my mental illness.”

Despite the sad stories Hilborn shared in his poems, he managed to add humor to his set. In between each poem he shared humorous personal experiences to entertain the audience. In the middle of his set, Hilborn asked if anyone’s first time ice skating was when they came to college in Massachusetts. More than 10 hands rose up from the audience. He then continued with a story revealing his hatred for children who were better than him at ice skating during his first time at a rink, which led to the poem Unsolicited Advice to Minnesota Children,” encouraging them to appreciate the land they live in before the beauty goes away.

Hilborn’s “The Future” closed the show. This poem shed light on Hilborn’s bipolar diagnosis, describing how he continues to fight his illness and suicidal thoughts.

Poetic Justice, Brandeis’ slam poetry team, hosted the event. Three of its members opened the show with their own spoken word poetry. After the show ended, so many students lined up to meet Hilborn and purchase his book that the meet-and-greet had to move to Ridgewood Commons.

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