Spotlight on: Shane Koyczan

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In a world where spoken word poetry seems to be receiving more and more recognition, if there’s one poet I think people keep missing out on their lists of the bests, it’s this guy. It’s Shane Koyczan. Koyczan is a conductor of hope. That’s the only way I know how to say it. Despite the heaviness of many of his subject matters, there is always an underlying promise that the past is a place we can choose to stop inhabiting. That every tomorrow is a source of unlimited potential, and that good things will happen if we just allow them to, if we just give our permission for life to stop beating us up.

When I’m scouting spoken word poetry, I’m usually looking for whatever’s going to hurt the most, whatever will pack the biggest punch, whatever’s going to leave me feeling all the awful things that need to be felt. Koyczan doesn’t do that. Not to me, at least. For me, Koyczan’s poems don’t live in the hurt. They live in the space that comes after it. They live in the looking back. In the surviving. The healing.

Here are my favourites:

1. Instructions for a Bad Day

Favourite quote: “Admit to the bad days, the impossible nights. Listen to the insights of those who have been there, but have come back. They will tell you: you can stack misery, you can pack despair, you can even wear your sorrow – but come tomorrow you must change your clothes.”

2. Remember How We Forgot

Favourite quote: “Remember how we used to bend reality like we were circus strong-men, like our imaginations were in shape then, like we were all ninjas trained in the deadly art of, ‘did not!’ Like, ‘I TOTALLY GOT YOU!’ ‘Did not.’”

3. Tomatoes

Favourite quote: “When I was a kid I was fascinated by space, and I learned that time slows near a black hole. Inside a black hole time stops altogether. Whether or not this theory will ever be proved, I am moved to believe this would be the perfect place to love someone.”

4. To This Day

An animated version of this poem can be found here, but I prefer the TED talk version because it has a small speech (for lack of a better word) that prefaces the poem, and strangely, in this case, my favourite quote comes from this rather than the poem itself:

“I will love myself despite the ease with which I lean towards the opposite.”

Contributing Editor /

Donna-Marie Riley currently resides in the South West of England. She is author of the poetry collection Love and Other Small Wars, published by Words Dance, and also featured in Between Sentiment and Sensation: Vol I, published by Red Paint Hill. She romanticizes cold coffee and bitten nails and she likes her poetry shaken, not stirred.