A master of both free verse and received forms, Hilberry infuses the familiar and everyday with intellectual insight. Poet Henry Taylor has said that Hilberry’s poems possess “the spooky ability to make odd, though rarely surreal, connections. The poems move with quiet authority from the observation of a particular, and of the possibilities surrounding it, to exploration of what might happen next. The miracle is that they do this without arbitrariness.” In the introduction to Hilberry’s collaboration with his daughter, This Awkward Art, poet Richard Wilbur noted that “one sees from different vantages the constellation of a family.” The two poets contemplate local, familial scenes and the death of their daughter/sister, each writing their own response to shared subjects.
Hilberry is also the author of the nonfiction Luke Karamazov (1987), an account of serial murderers in Kalamazoo. He has co-edited three volumes of “Third Coast” poetry from Michigan—the most recent, New Poems from the Third Coast: Contemporary Michigan Poetry, in 2000.
Hilberry’s awards include a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in poetry and a Michigan Arts Award.