Slam poet Neil Hilborn never imagined one of his performances would go viral, and sometimes, he still can’t really believe that it did. Nor can he get over what it led to.
"I have Imposter Syndrome about all of this," says Hilborn. "I never planned it and I'm still in awe."
Hilborn, who lives with mental illness, recorded a spoken word piece, "OCD," in 2013 and it received more than 75 million views online. In the poem, he expresses the beauty and heartbreak of finding someone who loved him – including his mental illness – but then fell out of love just as easily.
For the past few years, Hilborn has performed at primarily poetry festivals and college campuses, but recently switched to music venues. He will take the stage in Milwaukee on Tuesday, April 30 at Turner Hall Ballroom. Show starts at 8 p.m. and tickets are available here.
Currently on his "Endless Bummer" tour, Hilborn performs spoken word monologues about mental illness, but also pieces that focus on other topics. Although he prefers not to be pigeonholed as a "mentally ill writer and performer," he also understands the content of his poems speaks to many who became fans because they have a mental illness – or care about someone who does.
"I try to talk about mental health in a lyrical and approachable way. And in a way that can be totally understood in three minutes," says Hilborn.
Hilborn was born in Houston, Texas and graduated with honors from Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. While a student, he joined the school’s spoken word team and nabbed first place in the National College Poetry Slam. He was also a part of the Minneapolis Adult National Slam Poetry team, which placed fifth out of 80 competitors in the 2011 national competition.
Hilborn says memorizing his work is one of his largest professional struggles. But he’s also found a solution.
"My auditory memory is garbage. I need a visual image to remember something. So after I write a poem, I print it out and read it over and over until I have a literal image of the poem on paper in my mind. I then read the poem from the image in my brain," says Hilborn.
Hilborn says writing and performing poetry has helped him process and accept challenging aspects of his life. He considers poetry a form of therapy.
"It’s been an excellent method of desensitization therapy for me. I’m confronting my fears every night and nothing bad is happening. Instead, I’m getting paid for it," says Hilborn.
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.