To Laugh or Cry: A Neil Hilborn Review

This Saturday I was lucky enough to be able to go to a Neil Hilborn poetry reading in Bristol. Neil Hilborn, for those of you who don’t know, is a spoken word poet most famously known for a performance of his poem OCD which has gone viral online multiple times.

It was through this very poem that I discovered Neil (I think he had that warm casual sort of approach that makes me feel comfortable calling him that) and really spoken word poetry as a whole. I was swept up in all the emotion of the performance and have been hunting down spoken word poets ever since. I knew when I saw that Neil was going on a UK tour that I just couldn’t turn down the opportunity to see him perform in person.

And boy am I glad that I didn’t! From start to finish the experience was an emotional roller coaster. One minute I was dying laughing and the next moved to tears that welled up in my eyes. He performed poems featuring topics from why he hates cats to his personal struggles with mental illness and every single one was charged with intense emotion, no matter what that emotion be.

He held the crowd like a true performer and broke up the heavier moments with a dark humour that we couldn’t help laugh along to. I was struck by the way when he performed he seemed to go to a whole other place, preparing to begin each poem by stepping away from the microphone, taking a deep breath and proceeding with a completely different persona.

His poems express such complex feelings in so few words and I could help but he blown away. I don’t think there was a single one that I didn’t like but I was especially hooked on a poem titled Joey which explores the cost of therapy and how it can make the difference between life and death. I’d heard this poem, as well as a few of the others he performed, before online but even still, watching them in person seemed like a completely new experience as I was captivated by the man standing on the stage before me.

His personality came shining through in every word he said and he had away of making everyone in the audience feel like they were simply chatting away with him. I’m so glad I had the opportunity to see him after admiring his work online for so long and I would definitely recommend that you check him out whether that be online or otherwise.  I was prepared for a exceptionally funny but also emotional experience going in, and that’s exactly what I got.

To laugh or cry? I was very happy to be moved to both.