The Eyes of a Poet

Shane Koyczan

Shane Koyczan
Shane Koyczan

At 24, Shane Koyczan quit his job to become a spoken-word artist full time. He had discovered his voice.

And not just any voice, but a voice people stop and listen to. Koyczan moves through line by line, transitioning like the ocean, with soft articulation and a powerful yet affable tone, speaking about the world and its shortcomings.

Koyczan’s spoken-word poem “To This Day,” which went viral as a crowd-animated video, spurred a nationwide conversation about bullying in schools. His harrowing piece “Troll” reflects more fixedly on cyber-bullying. The Canadian artist says he hopes that his writing strikes a chord with those who share the same struggles in life. “It offers some level of comfort to know you aren’t alone,” he tells EW.

Although many of his poems reflect profoundly on the world around him — e.g., environmental neglect or institutional discouragement of “unrealistic” dreams — he sprinkles his passionate performances with humor. As a kid, humor wasn’t just a means of masking his own depression, he says, but a way to uplift those around him.

“When you see a light, give it to others,” Koyczan says. “You can’t ask people to follow you down, down, down. Bring them up to a safe place.”

If there is one thing Koyczan hopes people feel as they leave his show, it’s connection — “to yourself and everyone else,” he says. “We live in a world where you’re told not to access your emotions,” he adds. “When you come to my show, you’re allowed to laugh or cry.”

Eugene’s Jorah LaFleur opens for Shane Koyczan and his band The Short Story Long 9 pm Saturday, Aug. 8, at WOW Hall; $15 adv., $18 door. All ages.

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