To hear Shane Koyczan perform a poem is to be caught in a hurricane that lifts you off your feet, then to dry out in the hot sun. Delivered with cadence and authority, his words ebb and flow with a verbal originality unsurpassed by most spoken-word artists performing today. His urbane voice, well-suited to poetry, does little to dim the radiance of the messages contained in every piece: Koyczan deals in religion, family, childhood, illness, bullying, and poverty, topics always likely to provoke a thoughtful response in his listeners. His audiences are likely to burst out laughing or hold back tears; it varies moment-to-moment and sentence-to-sentence, depending on the subject matter.
Though he’s been on the spoken-word scene for many years, Koyczan gained a wider appreciation after he performed “We Are More”, an ode to the True North strong and free, at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. Performing with the three-piece ensemble, The Short Story Long, featuring Vancouver’s resident folk superhero Dan Mangan, he has released two albums of poetry. He has also released a collection of his work, Visiting Hours, and a novel in verse, Stickboy, both acclaimed by critics for their blistering perception and poignant purposefulness. Despite his successes, Shane remains humble and grateful, and recently turned his attention toward the growing anti-bullying movement with a campaign of his own: the To This Day Project.
The project draws its name from one of Koyczan’s more personal poems, To This Day. The poem, a raw and emotional denunciation of bullies and an uplifting hymn for every victim of highschool scorn, forms a strong basis for the confrontation of bullying in schools everywhere. Gathering a team of unique artists and animators, the project set the poem against a stunning visual accompaniment. The video has been making the rounds on various social media outlets, and the project doesn’t show any signs of stopping soon. The appeal to the anti-bullying cause is evident:
“Because there’s something inside you that made you keep trying. Despite everyone who told you to quit, you built a cast around your broken heart and signed it yourself. You signed it “they were wrong”, because maybe you didn’t belong to a group or a clique. Maybe they decided to pick you last for basketball or everything. Maybe you used to bring bruises and broken teeth to show and tell but never told, because how can you hold your ground if everyone around you wants to bury you beneath it? You have to believe that they were wrong.”
Shane Koyczan’s words are enough to restore a little faith in the world around me, and I hope that his project continues to do good.