Shane Koyczan raises his voice to lift spirits

Canadian poet Shane Koyczan is performing at the Revelstoke Performing Arts Centre this Friday, Oct. 23.

Penticton-based poet Shane Koyczan brings his politically charged poetry to Revelstoke this Friday.

By Claire Paradis, Special to the Review

Take heart, Revelstoke, there’s something much more uplifting than electioneering coming to you soon: Shane Koyczan’s poetry. By the time this article is published, the ballots will be counted and the die cast for the next four years. Depending on your political stripe, you might feel validated or vanquished. But life goes on, life doesn’t stop for a ballot box.

And all corners of life is what Koyczan paints in full colour with words, including a portrait of Mr. Stephen Harper. Not known for being politically shy, the poet released The Cut on Oct. 9, an eloquent exit interview where he gives Harper the ax. It’s a stinging indictment of his government’s regime that highlights the mistreatment of veterans, women, the electoral process and more, calling Harper ‘Canada’s worst handyman’, among other things.

“Right now there’s a sense of urgency in the country,” the Penticton-based poet mused. “The divide, I’ve never seen that before.”

People are so passionate that their choice is the right choice, Koyczan said, that they’re calling each other out over just a difference of opinion. But that hasn’t stopped him.

“The thing I love about what I do is that I have a voice. If I’m not using it, then what am I doing?” he told the Review.

Even so, he understands why younger voters might be tempted to stay away from the polls. “I don’t think youth are apathetic,” he said, “It’s just another place for them not to be listened to.”

For his part, Koyczan had been sure to cast his vote in the traditionally Conservative city of Penticton before heading out on tour.

“Society is a contract and to get the benefits and rewards you need to participate. If you’re not going to vote, it’s tantamount to taking your hands off the wheel and having no one drive.”

If there’s anyone who can take a tough situation and find not only the poetry but the inspiration in it, it’s Koyczan. His repertoire extends way beyond political commentary, and he is well known for his funny and moving pieces on bullying (“To This Day”), online nastiness (“Troll”), and even the meaning of life (“Shoulders”). When you’re needing a bit of inspiration, you can find his beautifully animated and scored videos on YouTube.

Being able to be professional poet is an inspiration itself. For the past 15 years Koyczan has been a full-time poet, and it all started when he quit his day job. After a successful stint in the U.S., he decided to give himself a year to see if he could make it work.

It was in university that he started writing poetry, thanks to an English professor who encouraged him to write something complete.

“I’d had all these unfinished chapters to a novel,” confessed Koyczan, who found poetry easier to get done. And in his words, “one complete project leads to another,” so much so that the poet has now also created screenplays as well as books. All it took was a leap of faith into the unknown and the tenacity to get to the end.

“It’s like stepping off a plank,” he said. Unlike a more traditional, mapped-out path, Koyczan had to find his own way, a challenge that a lot of creatives face. Fortunately he quickly discovered there were people there for him: “I owe a lot of what I am to my fans.”

And they owe a lot to him too. the poet has received some incredible letters from “people living on a ledge for a while”, he tells me. What he does on stage connects him with people and allows them to be emotional.

“A lot of people lose that, they’re plugged into their iThing,” Koyczan lamented.

You can get poetically connected with Koyczan on Friday, Oct. 23, at 7:30 p.m. at the Revelstoke Performing Arts Centre. Tickets are $30 and can be purchased in advanced at the Visitor Information Centre, ArtFirst or through the Revelstoke Arts Council website.

 

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