I had such high hopes for this.
First things first, there is, and always has been, an ongoing war between slam poets and page poets: in short, it seems that slam poets look down on page poets for not performing their work, and page poets look down on slam poets for not writing for the page.
With that framework in mind, this review might make more sense. Our Numbered Days is a slam poetry collection by acclaimed slam poet, Neil Hilborn. Now, don’t get me wrong. I was excited for this book. Like many, I saw his poem OCD online (it has had 75 millions views ! A poem! Has 75 million views) and loved it, and eagerly ordered, and impatiently waited for Our Numbered Days.
And when I got it, I found it an absolute struggle to get through.
Hilborn is a good slam poet, but, despite his love for page poets, evident from the quotes throughout the book, his poetry largely doesn’t work in the context of this collection. Sometimes page poets are told that the poem ‘doesn’t come off the page,’ but in this context, it doesn’t work on it.
And it’s a shame, because there’s some good work here, and he talks about topics that should be talked about. But largely, these are performance poems, and they just don’t work on the page (interestingly, OCD is one of the exceptions).
Also, Hilborn feels really young. He was 25 when this collection was published, and whilst his youth gives the book at times a verve, other times it makes it a little cringey, (something he pretty much acknowledges on the back cover).
I think that he’ll make a great book one day, but I think we’re a good few years away from that (I know, he’s a new book out in April, The Future, and I’m tempted to have a look, but I’m afraid it will be more of the same). I think, if he wrote a collection for the page, it could be amazing but given that he’s a touring performance poet, I don’t think that will happen any time soon.
So, in short, do I recommend this book? No. BUT, instead, go watch him perform his poems on YouTube, or go see him live.