West campus mic night: An evening with poet Neil Hilborn

Neil Hilborn passionately recites one of his poems during Open Mic Night at West campus on Friday, Sept. 12. (Photo by Carly Traxler) Slam poet Neil Hilborn passionately recites one of his poems during Open Mic Night at West campus on Friday, Sept. 12. (Photo by Carly Traxler)

Neil Hilborn, a 25-year-old Internet sensation and slam poet, graced ASU's West Campus on Friday night. Opened by the well-rehearsed Joshua Wiss, this event attracted not only students, but professors, professional slam poets and many from the community to celebrate and appreciate the beauty of spoken word art. One performer, Asia Glenn, who performed songs accompanied by a ukelele was grateful for this wide appreciation for the arts.

“I thought it was a really good opportunity to get my work out there. I just started playing last year, and this was a way I could get exposure,” she said.

The courtyard allowed students and other audience members to sit in the outdoor venue surrounding a fountain, facing the the cascading staircase which, framed by palm trees, acted as the stage.

As students and performers, forensics freshman Catherine Craig and communication freshman Ilyssa Goldsmith, appreciated this unique location.

“It seems artsy, and fancy,” Craig said, while Goldsmith commented on the lights and open space.

Forensics junior Samuel Peoples also had a great time performing, but was embarrassed when reading a piece about his girlfriend — who happened to be in the audience.

“What actually scared me was when I actually got to my love poem... the lights went pink and that actually made me kind of nervous,” he said.

Following all the student and community performers was Hilborn, whom many came specifically to see.

Master's of interdisciplinary studies Corie Cisco, was one of many in the audience last night who came to see the poet.

“I've been watching Neil Hilborn on YouTube for quite some time, and I love slam poetry, and I think my capstone project is going to include slam poetry so I decided to come and hear him out,” she said.

Hilborn used his powerful spoken art to communicate about mental health issues and relationships through comedy. Across the Internet you will find some of his most famous works such as “OCD,” “Dear Creationists” and “Mating Habits of the North American Hipster.”

Samuel Peoples, a West campus student, performed some of his self-written poems during Open Mic Night at ASU West campus on Friday, Sept. 12. (Photo by Carly Traxler) Samuel Peoples, a West campus student, performed some of his self-written poems during Open Mic Night at ASU West campus on Friday, Sept. 12. (Photo by Carly Traxler)

Many of his classic sets were recounted for an awed audience, along with some new, original poems — one of which hadn't been performed anywhere else. The whole performance was a hit.

“The crowd was great, they were really responsive... I felt the energy in the crowd,” Hilborn said.

Following the show, he took the time to talk to students, giving advice, sharing stories and communicating his knowledge on metal illness and poetry slamming.

After speaking with Neil Hilborn, two of the youngest performers, 14-year-olds Angela McChesney and Karaline Petty, were inspired to continue writing and performing.

“Its a lot more free, you have a lot more freedom to be what you want,” Petty said.

McChesney echoed this statement. “I love slam poetry, I love spoken word,” she said.

When asked if they planned on coming and performing at more events, both enthusiastically said, “Definitely!” This response is something Hilborn fully supports.

“If you want to know about poetry, watch the poems, and there are poetry slams! Just go and you can find stuff that’s happening in front of you! If you want to, just go and do it, be a part of the community!,” he said.

If you are interested in learning and partaking in more slam poetry events, you can attend one of the monthly Open Mic nights at the West Campus in the Delph Courtyard, attend the Individual World Poetry Slam happening in Downtown Phoenix and around the Valley in October, or even watch professionals online, such as on Button Poetry's YouTube page where many of Neil Hilborn's most famous pieces are posted.

Reach the reporter at rtashboo@asu.edu or follow her on Twitter @rachael_ta

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