Shane Koyczan

Event Date and Time: 
Thursday, January 19, 2017 - 1:00pm
Location: 
Dick and Jane LeVan Theatre
Event Type: 
Mac Campbell Lecture Series

In a realm where poets rarely intersect with stardom, the Opening Ceremonies for the 2010 Winter Olympics introduced us to Shane Koyczan. With a collective “wow” across Canada and beyond, we found the poet of our generation. And we weren’t even looking for one. The world took notice when Shane’s influential, anti-bullying, To This Day Project video went viral in early 2013 with over 14 million views and counting. Powerfully engaging and authentic in attitude, his explorations are relevant to our times in the way that Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Gordon Downie and Leonard Cohen are to theirs. But unlike the musicians that he’s often compared to, poets rarely infiltrate pop culture. Shane emerges in a new wave of 21st century poetry that dares to belong to the people and speak directly to them in their own voice.

Shane Koyczan is not only a writer and spoken word virtuoso, but also a multi medium spoken word artist. His first published collection, Visiting Hours, was the only work of poetry selected by both the Guardian and the Globe and Mail for their Best Books of the Year lists in 2005. Destined to become a future classic, Visiting Hours is now in its third edition, and includes We Are More. Shane followed up on the success of Visiting Hours with Stickboy, a novel in verse that chronicles the dark and lonely journey of a bullied child gripped by helpless rage. He shines a light into the bleak world behind some of the most incomprehensible acts in our culture, and also shows the healing power of love. Written for anyone who has ever been a child, Stickboy continues to be hailed by teachers, academics and mental health experts alike for its deft handling of the subject of bullying.

Shane returned to his roots with a collection of poetry titled Our Deathbeds will be Thirsty, which was released in 2012. This book features the piece, To This Day, a poem about bullying that was made into a video by collaborating animators. That video, released in 2013, quickly received worldwide recognition by going viral on Youtube, receiving over a million views in a matter of days. It was released as a project to acknowledge and support national Anti-Bullying Day. Since the video’s release Shane has presented at TED Talks, where the audience leapt to their feet in applause. Sir Ken Robinson has listed that talk as one of his top 10 talks on education. That TED Talk led to Shane collaborating with TED-ED to create a classroom tool that provides teachers a way to discuss anti-bullying with students. This extraordinary work has been adapted into an equally moving and visually arresting book. Thirty international artists, as diverse as they are talented, were inspired to create exceptional art to accompany To This Day.

In September 2014, Shane’s highly anticipated release, Silence Is A Song I Know All The Words To was his first graphic novel. Encapsulating incredible imagery illustrated by Gareth Gaudin, Shane once again covered many beautiful and though provoking pieces relevant to our time. The graphic novel is accompanied by a collection of songs of the poems featured in the novel, an astonishing musical collaboration with Cayne McKenzie of We Are The City and Hannah Epperson.

Shane took us from the page and further displayed his talents as a multi medium spoken work artist in his latest collaboration, with the Vancouver Opera on his novel in verse, Stickboy. Shane took on a new challenge as a first time librettist as he transformed his work into the operatic drama, which premiered at Vancouver’s Playhouse Theatre in October 2014.

Shane, however, is best known for his award winning spoken word performances. With his rhythmic verse in high gear, he navigates his audience through social and political territory with a furious honesty and a tender humanity that has brought audiences to their feet in New York, London, Edinburgh, Sydney, Stockholm and Los Angeles, to name a few. He has received five-star reviews for his performances around the globe. Winner of the US Slam Poetry Championship and the Canadian Spoken Word Olympics, Shane is truly an extraordinary talent that has blown the dust off of the traditional designation “poet.”