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Neil Hilborn performs for students on Valentine’s Day

Alika Gillard, Living Arts Editor

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Students chattered in the dimly lit auditorium as Neil Hilborn paced and prepared to speak. Hilborn, a renowned slam poet from Houston, shared some words with the Clark students. The event was sponsored by Diversability and featured students from Clark Writes.

 

Before Hilborn took the stage, Clark students Kate McNicholas (‘19), F. Sebastian Baker (‘20), Ruth Fuller (‘20), Khalil Power (18), Lital Dolan (20), Bruno Lieto (‘19), Alyssa Pelletier (‘19), Maddie Thomas (‘20), Raechel Segal (‘17), and Kaitlyn Lindtvedt (‘17)  performed some original pieces for the crowd. The pieces contained heavy subjects, funny moments, and intimate truths, all adding to an emotion-laden evening.

 

McNicholas told stories of  living with depression and romantic relationships. “I’m cheating on you,” she read, “her name is depression.”

Her second poem highlighted the anxious mystery of falling in love. “My love. You freak me the fuck out,” she said.

 

Lieto read his poems regarding heartbreak, as well as emotionally and physically abusive romantic relationships, titled “Oxford English Dictionary” and “Purple Kisses.”

 

Baker read poems addressing depression and the adaptation of escapism as a way to cope. “Give me dragons instead of depression,” he began. “I wish I could face my demons on the battlefield, instead of in my mind.”

 

Thomas also spoke of the strong, deep-seated nature of depression, and the emotions and actions that ensue. “This is the recovery. It is messy,” she said. “If you ask for help, people will listen.”

 

Finally, Segal, the host of the evening presented her piece “Kurt Cobain With Guac,” a light-hearted, optimistic piece. “I can’t find Nirvana, but at least I found Chipotle,” she said.

 

Several of the Clark poems that were presented will appear in CUPS’ play “In Sanity,” showing April 6-8. The play will focus on mental illness and its diverse effects on the individual and their relationships.

 

After a short break, Hilborn took the stage with zealous energy and readiness.

“Happy Valentine’s Day. Love’s not real,” he started.

Hilborn shared dozens of poems with the crowd. They were happy, sad, and everything that lies in between.

 

“Me, But Happy,” was one of his most popular poems, serving as an updated version of his earlier poem “Static Electricity.” He described the infatuous, obsessive relationship with a significant other. “If you were a cereal, you’d be ‘Reason to Wake Up-Oh’s’,” he said.

 

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, he shared with the crowd some of his “rejected Tinder bios” to lighten the mood, along with jokes about friendships, farts, and laughing at his own jokes.

 

Hilborn also told stories of his time living in Texas, and the stark contrast of living in the midwest while he was in college, where hair froze off of his “emo bangs.” Through his inspiration, he wrote “Unsolicited Advice to Minnesota Children” and  “King Sadboy,” a poem about Aaron Rodgers and the unappreciative nature of depression.

 

“There doesn’t have to be a reason,” he said as he ended. He spoke about the crippling depression that many artists face, and the gratefulness he experiences now. “I’m so lucky we lived through who we were to be who we are.”

 

At the end, Hilborn encouraged students to ask him questions. Hands shot up instantly, and for nearly half an hour he answered students’ questions, and reflected on giving a TED talk and growing as an artist in general. One student was eager to ask, “What’s your favorite color?”

 

“Deep forest hunter green,” he replied.

 

“The Future,” Hilborn’s new book, will be released this Spring, with a release date to be announced soon.

 

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