Canadian spoken word artist Shane Koyczan is an intense young man whose poems explore some thoroughly emotional ground regarding his childhood, his grandparents, his early relationships and his own perspective on love. After just a couple of pieces I was totally gripped. Koyczan is an enthralling performer, and seems to pour a huge quantity of emotional energy into every reading. His poems are mostly untitled, and each piece’s preamble runs very naturally into the poem proper, giving the hour a slick, well-rehearsed feel that keeps things ticking along.
Koyczan is very open with his childhood experiences and freely draws on them to paint his ideas about the weird things family members do to support each other; about the nature of love and beauty a theme he returns to with consistently deep thought and care. His poem about his grandfather dealing with his night terrors is particularly moving, as is his It Gets Better poem for bullied kids everywhere and a poem for a childhood friend who recently passed was delivered with tremendous feeling. On a purely technical level, his ability with rhyme is of a pretty high standard, and creatively employed to enhance the poems’ deeper meaning.
If criticism could be levelled at Koyczan, it’s that his work is occasionally cloying, or overly optimistic, but this is part and parcel with the sheer emotional force at play in the work. If you’re a fan of spoken word or slam poetry, this is an excellent example of the medium. If not, this is a pretty intense place to start, but there’s a convincing argument to be made for jumping in at the deep end.