I watched “OCD” a second time and really listened to what he was saying and, just as significantly, how he said them. I’ve seen slams where poems are recited with great passion and conviction, for laughs, even performed out of desperation. Hilborn’s performance definitely had the essence of desperation, but I also sensed resolution. Resolution to rejection. And to me, that was the most profound part of the entire performance.
“I leave the door unlocked, I leave the lights on.”
Resolution and desperation.
When I visited one of Hilborn’s social media sites, he had posted the same video that recently went viral, stating, “Alright, so I have been doing this poem for almost three years, and this is the first time anyone has taken good video of it.”
Three years of performing this poem, and it’s as if the pain is brand new to him. It’s as if the softness of this woman’s touch and the heartbreak of her retreat happened just moments ago. I think that feeling of rejection resonates within all of us, and that makes this poem even more powerful.
His obsessive-compulsive disorder is not something that we all experience. The National Institute of Mental Health found that around 2.2 million Americans live with this disorder, where they generally perform rituals continuously without control over their actions.
This poem and the way we feel after experiencing the performance plainly expresses that a disorder does not make a person “the other”. The rejection that the poet felt is palpable because we have all felt it at one point. The anxiety of meeting someone wonderful for the first time, and the semblance of rightness that comes with their presence.
Slam poets represent a window into understanding the world and those we feel are “the others” much better. And that’s the magic of slam poetry for me.
If you haven’t seen a slam poem performed before, you’re in for a treat.
You can see more of Neil Hilborn’s work at neilhilborn.tumblr.com.
I’d love to hear about your experiences seeing or reciting slam poetry! Feel free to get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @marie_eo
*Correction: The byline on this blog post is incorrect due to technical difficulties. It was written by Marie Rabusa.