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“Hey, asshole! Don’t kill yourself! Don’t waste your unscarred knuckles.”
YouTube-famous-slam-poet Neil Hilborn’s voice echoed across the room as words to “Punk Rock John” burst forth from his lips.
Hilborn became an Internet sensation after his slam poem “OCD” gained attention on YouTube. His video was posted through Button Poetry, an organization founded by Hilborn’s friend, Sam Cook, to promote performance poetry. “OCD” now has over 8.5 million hits and snagged the attention of the University Activities Board, prompting an invitation to perform at Millersville University Saturday, Nov. 15.
Hilborn graduated from Macalester College in 2011 with honors and a degree in creative writing. He’s made quite a name for himself in the world of performance poetry as a College National Poetry Slam champion, member of the Minneapolis adult National Poetry Slam team and cofounder of a Macalester literary magazine called “Thistle.” He has also been featured in publications including “Borderline Magazine” and “Orange Quarterly.”
Preceding Hilborn on stage in the SMC MPR was an open mic night where eight audience members chose to perform. Among them were current Millersville students, a Millersville alum and a York resident.
Emily Rosatto, a student of York College, took the stage to perform “What Teachers Make,” a poem by Taylor Mali.
Jeremy “the Yeti” Barr, an alum of Millersville, also performed, reciting a series of his own poems; “The Summer of Cold Showers,” “The Chef,” “On Getting Underwear for Christmas,” “The Scent of a Man” and “An Ode to my Liver.”
As the final participant, Quinton Collins left the stage, the audience cheered in anticipation of the main attraction: Neil Hilborn himself.
When Hilborn took the stage, he walked towards the microphone, breathed deeply and jumped into the opening lines of “OCD.”
As he concluded and was met with cheers, Hilborn scanned out over the crowd and seemed genuinely surprised at the number of people who came to hear him perform.
“There are all these people here on a Saturday night?!” said Hilborn. “How (expletive) dope is that?”
He went on to perform several more of his pieces, each striking the audience in a different way.
“Punk Rock John” was the story of how punk rock music saved his life and gave him hope when he needed tough love.
He followed with “Dear Creationists” and “I’m Sorry Your Kids are Little Shits,” and then went into “Unsolicited Advice to Minnesota Children.”
Hilborn talked of relationships in his works “Static Electricity” and “A Catalogue of the Things I Hate About Her,” which bookend a former relationship: “Static Electricity” about the euphoria and utter bliss that comes with the beginning of a relationship and “A Catalog of the Things I Hate About Her” about the destruction of a relationship gone wrong.
Hilborn finished his set with “Our Numbered Days,” a compilation of quotes from famous authors and classic works about the futility of life, the inevitability of death and what we leave behind us when we go.
Before he left, Hilborn urged the audience members to never be afraid to seek help when they need it, saying that therapy is never something to fear. His message coupled with his words left the audience members with a renewed sense of hope.
For more of Neil Hilborn’s work, visit Button Poetry on YouTube or at www.ButtonPoetry.com.