Oct. 31, 2012 - Issue #889-Human Trafficking Problem
Royal Alberta Museum Theatre, $18 – $22
Words can be powerful weapons, something spoken word poet Shane Koyczan knows all too well.
Cutting remarks and relentless bullying by his childhood peers made Koyczan believe his thoughts were unimportant, but he has taken those thoughts and spun them into powerful poetry that's captivated audiences worldwide.
"I'm not very comfortable in my own skin I guess is the easiest way to say it. What poetry gives me is that sort of thing where you lose one sense and another will over-compensate for it," Koyczan says of his interest in the genre. "I think for me, because I was so uncomfortable with my physical self, I over-compensated emotionally."
Over-compensating or not, Koyczan's heartfelt words have struck a chord with audiences, and he says it's always rewarding to hear people connect to what he's saying with something that's happened in their own lives.
"It's really led me to this sort of place where I realized, you know, that vulnerability is a stronger armour than all these walls we throw up," he muses.
Walls are non-existant on Koyczan's latest album, Remembrance Year, an honest, raw release which sees his poetry accompanied by his backing band Short Story Long. The material delves into Koyczan's childhood—often painful memories he had to resurrect from journals he had kept as a child. However, amidst the memories of bullying, he recognized a thread of positivity.
"I think they're just stories I needed to get out. My journey over the last little while has been going back and looking at my childhood objectively. I was really blessed to have a grandmother who never threw anything away and she kept all these journals that I wrote in as a kid. None of it was poetry; it was just my thoughts poured out on paper, but it was amazing. It was a treasure trove of being able to go back and see what I was going through," he says. "Going back and reading about myself from my perspective, in the midst of all this darkness, there were moments of beauty and levity and light ... so I wanted to pay homage to a chapter in my life I had ignored for so long and kind of revel in its value."
The stories were difficult to revisit, but Koyczan believes if someone else can gain something from his experiences, it's all worth it. The universal message that runs through his words is you are not alone, no matter how bleak a situation may feel.
"What's needed is compassion," Koyczan states, citing the recent suicide of Amanda Todd as a prime example of where bullying and judgement can lead. "We so severely need to abolish this idea of cool ... everybody's guessing what cool is—nobody knows. There's no answer. Don't follow; carve out your own path."
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