Poet will say a few choice words during his Park City presentation
The Park City Institute will present award-winning slam poet and TEDx presenter Shane Koyczan at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 24, at the Eccles Center for the Performing Arts, 1750 Kearns Blvd.
Tickets range from $29 to $79 and can be purchased by visiting www.ecclescenter.org.
Shane Koyczan is a Canadian award-winning spoken-word artist, poet, author, TEDx speaker, musician and filmmaker who is known for his honest and direct approach to bullying, cancer and death.
He’s coming to Park City on Saturday, March 24, for a Park City Institute presentation at the Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.
Koyczan, who performed his poem “We Are More” at the opening ceremony of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, said the Park City appearance will be composed mostly of his stories and poetry that express his innermost thoughts.
“When people come see my show, I picture myself as a curator of a museum, which is me,” he said. “But I also think people are surprised that the show is as funny as it is. I need levity in my life to balance out the dark. There is a lot of dark.”
Koyczan’s first published collection, “Visiting Hours,” was the only work of poetry selected by both the Guardian and The Globe and Mail for their lists of books of the year in 2005.
The writer and poet followed up this success with “Stickboy,” a novel in verse that chronicles the dark and lonely journey of a bullied child who is in the throes of the rage he develops from his feeling of helplessness.
This is just a tip of Koyczan’s creative iceberg.
He wrote a graphic novel in 2014 called “Silence Is a Song I Know All the Words To,” and included a poem called “Troll,” which is about cyberbullying.
Koyczan didn’t think his writings and poetry were anything special when he first started out.
“I don’t think very many people get into the spoken word and poetry with the thought that they are doing to have the same impact that The Beatles did,” he said. “Not to put myself on that level, but writing and spoken word is a very personal thing. You’re mining your own experience for the things to share.”
Koyczan’s realization that spoken word and poetry could be as powerful as music came to him through other people’s letters and emails.
“I become aware of it when letters start showing up in my mailbox,” he said. “I become aware of it when these people want to start sharing their own stories with me.”
Those letters opened Koyczan’s eyes.
“The part that is the most rewarding for me is to discover that all of the pain, shame, hurt and guilt that I write about, that I thought were just me, are actually universal,” he said. “While it’s rare that someone will have the exact same experience I had, there are many people who have had parallel experiences that they can draw from and relate to my works.”
Koyczan’s creative road began with journaling.
“I started writing very young and I became very familiar to not having an outlet, not talking to people, because I grew up without friends,” he said. “Most of the writings I did back then weren’t poetry. They were just things I wanted to say, but couldn’t because throughout my youth I heard words like ‘Sit down,’ and ‘Shut up,’ or ‘Nothing you think has value,’ from all of these people in school who project narratives on me, rather than find out what my narratives were.”
Words became Koyczan’s real friends and kept him company throughout the dark times.
“I wanted to share my thoughts, and that’s how I did it,” he said. “I started writing to battle my own inner loneliness.”
That changed when Koyczan began attending Okanagan College in Kelowna, British Columbia.
“I found there was a difference between what’s valued in high school versus what’s valued in higher learning,” he said. “When you get to university, your acumen, your ability to learn and your knowledge — everything that you’re made fun of in high school — is revered.”
The change helped Koyczan feel comfortable enough to share some of his writings.
“That’s when I found people who were very much on the same page that I was,” he said. “I got to a point where I figured there are two people in life: There are the people who do things, and there are the people who talk or ridicule the person who did something.”
Koyczan said there is a difference between criticism and cruelty.
“Criticism is an important part of growing up because that’s how you learn and that’s how you challenge yourself,” he said. “But with social media these days, you can put something online and 600 trolls will come out of the woodwork and tear you apart. I mean how do you navigate that?”
Koyczan’s solution is to keep moving on to new projects.
“It became more important to do things and Idecided it didn’t matter if I got judged,” he said. “I look at what I’m doing as leaving monuments to show that I was here, because I’m not going to be here forever.”
This is the message that Koyczan wants to give. He also wants people to know that there are plenty of opportunities for people to venture into if they can overcome the trolls.
“Life isn’t just one flower,” he said. “There is a whole bouquet here.”
Koyczan’s writings led him to other expressive arts.
His forays into music include his band — the Short Story Long — who put together an animated anti-bullying video, “To This Day,” which has been viewed more than 22 million times on YouTube since it was uploaded in 2013.
He has collaborated with Cayne McKenzie of the band We Are the City and musician Hannah Epperson on performances that involve poetry and music.
Koyczan is also starting a series of web videos, and he worked with filmmaker Melanie Wood on a documentary called “Shut Up and Say Something,” which was screened at the Vancouver Film Festival last year and is still touring other festivals.
The film takes a look behind the scenes in Koyczan’s life and examines his reconnection with his father who he had not seen since he was a child, he said.
“As an artist, I’m interested in music and that’s why I have a band,” Koyczan said. “I’m interested in film; that’s why I’m working on a web series and did a documentary.”
Even with all of his explorations, the spoken word is his first love.
“Spoken word is malleable art,” he said. “It crosses different spectrums, and I’ve come to understand that because I’m not just getting invited to poetry, writers or spoken-word festivals. I’m getting invited to jazz festivals, [and] comedy festivals. I feel very fortunate that I’m able to do it and that people get out of it as much as they do.”
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