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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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College National Poetry Slam champion visits Mic Check

Neil+Hilborn
Photo By: Morgan Engel
Neil Hilborn

Three years ago slam poet Neil Hilborn became “Internet famous” after a video of one of his performances went viral. Sunday, Hilborn — the College National Poetry Slam champion — performed in Downtown Bryan, sharing his experiences becoming a full-time poet and the meaning behind some of his poems.

Hilborn, who originally intended to become a professor, said his life changed dramatically when a video of his 2013 performance of a poem about obsessive-compulsive disorder became widely circulated around social media.

“I had just finished all my grad school applications, like I was going to go and get a MFA and be a professor,” Hilborn said. “And then, suddenly, I wake up one morning and ‘OCD’ blew up, and what is now my agency, they contacted me and they were like, ‘Hey, do you want to tour full-time?’ And I’m like, ‘What? Well I mean, I guess, sure.’”

Hilborn said his love of writing and his vision of becoming a professor started during his high school years.

“I didn’t start writing in earnest like every single day until I was about 15 or 16,” Hilborn said. “That’s about the time that I knew I wanted to be a poet and I also wanted to be a professor and teach creative writing, whether in high school or college, hopefully in college.”

Hilborn said he discovered writing was a great way to stop and reflect on his emotions and what is going on in his life. He said putting these thoughts into poems allow him to discover more about himself.

“It forces you to sit down and genuinely consider what’s going on in your life,” Hilborn said.  “You’re not just like talking about it or just saying something off the concept or like thinking about somebody. You’re sitting there and you’re actually confronted with what you really think –— like part of you on this piece of paper.”

The two emotions that Hilborn said inspire him most are joy and anxiety. Hilborn said these are two deeper emotions that more people can connect with.

“I think a lot of time it sort of correlates with sort of the emotion that you feel, because everybody’s thoughts are like a chemical baseline in our brain,” Hilborn said. “Like a place their brain just likes to hang out.”

Hilborn said performing poetry reveals more about the poem, which also reveals more about the poet. Hilborn said his own performance can change over time as he discovers more about himself.
“There’s something about, about writing, and especially about performing your stuff all the time in front of people that really demands that you have an extensive knowledge of yourself and that you’re honest with yourself about what’s really going on inside of you,” Hilborn said.

Hilborn said his writing and performances have also shown him how he has changed over time.

“I was so serious for so long — that I like took myself so seriously that — I’m just trying to like, find humor in the way that my life works on a day-to-day basis,” Hilborn said. “Like if I’m dealing with something going on in my life, the way that I try to approach it has been humor and often with self-deprecating humor.”

Hilborn said he still has a passion for teaching though, and he hopes to one day get his doctorate’s degree.
“[It’s] on hold right now because I got this really cool opportunity,” Hilborn said. “But yeah, as soon as my body can’t take driving everywhere anymore, I’m just going to go to grad school and teach creative writing.”

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