Shane Koyczan

Shane Koyczan

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Shane is a modern troubadour bringing his powerful poetry to page and stage with regularity. His first book of poems, Visiting Hours, is a rare document of emerging greatness - a thoroughly contemporary voice in the poetic tradition of Leonard Cohen, Ani DiFranco & Jeanette Winterson.


Shane Koyczan was born in the northern Canadian city of Yellowknife in 1976 and currently resides in coastal Vancouver. He's an active and accomplished member of the growing poetry community in western Canada and throughout the United States. He's won numerous awards for his work including the Individual Championship at the National Poetry Slam in Providence, RI in 2000.

Shane's lyricism, profound sense of rhythm and contemporary approach have won him legions of passionate fans. The performance aspect of his poetry is riveting. He's a modern troubadour embracing poetry's rich oral tradition. His poems are as bracing and beautiful on the page as they are to the ear. At the Edinburgh International Book Festival 2005, Shane appeared the same day as Margaret Atwood, John Ralston Saul, and Salman Rushdie, and his performance was named 'Best Poetry Reading' of the festival by literary editor David Robinson of the Scotsman.

The impact of Shane’s work on other writers is impressive. Fellow Native Canadian poet Richard Van Camp calls Shane’s poetry “sacred”. Val McDermid, author of The Distant Echo, called his work “electrifying…” before going on to say, “It’s the rare poet that can make the audience laugh and cry; this is a writer who will break your heart, then heal it.”

In October 2005, Mother Press Media published Shane's first book of poetry, Visiting Hours. It is a document of emerging greatness and has already been listed on the Guardian Unlimited's Best Books of 2005.

These poems are strong and clear, delicate and complex, long and short. The book is accompanied by a cd of Shane speaking some of his poems and it provides the reader some insight into Shane's immense talent as a performer. As Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip wrote about Shane's work, "It all sounds like... something's coming... a sound everyone asks for."


6:59 am

Written By: Shane Koyczan

I’ve been told
that people in the army
do more by 7:00 am
than I do
in an entire day

but if I wake
at 6:59 am
and turn to you
to trace the outline of your lips
with mine
I will have done enough
and killed no one
in the process.


Written By: Shane Koyczan

I met a man who makes meals at a restaurant
where there’s no menu
but everything’s on it
I know
but I met a man who makes meals at a restaurant
called death row
I met a man who makes the last meals
and I know way too many people
who would attack him asking him how it feels
to be part of something like that
so instead we just chew the fat
and I listen

he tells me about a 31 year old boy
a 31 year old boy
who was sentenced at the age of 22
waited nine years on death row
and last week was his turn
so he asked for sourdough French toast
and a side of magic beans
because a boy would rather face down a giant
take his chances with a bean stalk
than walk down that hall
where every footfall echoes into that same oblivion
where every experience never had congregates
to create a world never lived in
a boy could find himself asking for things like magic beans
and a cook finds himself understanding what it means
to be desperate
and he says
most of this food never gets touched
but that doesn’t stop him from being exact
even though
he’ll never make a meal like mom could
it’ll never taste as good as it would
coming from the one who raised you
and he knows this
but he’s meticulous
even though he knows that this 31 year old boy
grabbed his arresting officer’s service revolver
and tried to use it as a problem solver
he makes French toast with sourdough
as though he was cooking for a king
because the last thing you should do is eat well
especially if there’s a family praying that you have to go slow
when you take that walk through hell
so everything’s fresh
the eggs are free range
and there’s a last minute change of pans
because the last hands to wash that pan
missed a spot
this cook’s got a vision of french toast
that falls apart so softly
it feels like lovers lying in bed breaking apart
to sleep
so deeply that the shallow of their dreams
is enough for hate to drown in
because if you’re going to come up short
on a request like magic beans
you better be sure that the first part of that meal
means something
he says it’s a job
and as cliché as it sounds
someone’s got to do it
tells me that back in the day
they used to let mothers try
but most of them couldn’t get through it
a job was born out of necessity
and those struck by poverty
didn’t have false visions
of turning this work into their legacy
they didn’t dream of a dynasty
where the mountains were made of chocolate
and sugar stood in for sand
but they knew america would put a check in their hand
so men and women were born into workers
because ideas like right and wrong get outweighed by need
any time you’ve got mouths to feed

he tells me that america failed
it nailed freedom to a cross
because every boss in every office
is their own separate world
held up on the backs of employees
who are expected to say please
every time they have to take a piss
and I know way too many people
who tell me it can’t go on like this
and we say this
but we still set our alarms to be up in time
for our nine to five
we’re just reporters coming to you live
from bus stops and coffee shops
we wear our lives like costumes
and use bills and coins like props
in an over-budget production
that we cannot seem to stop
so it just goes on like this
as if we accept this
as if we’ve all become buddhas of mass production
our brains rotting like teeth
under the sweet unending bliss
of false enlightenment
and he tells me that maybe we
used to be flint
and we’d spark when struck by new ideas
but now all there is
is jobs
and someone’s got to do them
and isn’t he lucky
that he lives in a country
where everyone wants to be someone

and isn’t he lucky
that when the day’s done
he can go home and forget
like he played his hand
knowing it was a bad bet
because “what you risk
reveals what you value”
and this man ventured everything he knew
to the point where his wife cannot convince him
that her eyes are the colour blue
because what life have you got left
if you want no one to know what you do
he lets everyone think
that he’s just a cook because
he doesn’t want his kids to know what daddy does
and is unable to tell his mother where he was
when they executed a 31 year old boy
for killing the first son to the same mother

he made the meal for the man who took his brother
because he would not trust it
to anyone who was willing to fill in for him that day
because they’d say things like “don’t worry”
with just enough of a smile
that if he ever stood trial
trying to defend that meal
all he’d ever feel was

so he made french toast with sourdough
as though he were making a monument to his virtues
that would never be brought down
by the half truths of america

in truth it never got touched


Skin 2

Written By: Shane Koyczan

I don’t imagine you
saran-wrapped in black latex
or seeping out the edges
of something tight and red

I don’t close my eyes
to dream of your back
arched at the impossible angle
of a bow pulled tight
encouraging your shoulder blades
to drip the blood
of stockpiled broken hearts
but I hope the sound
of you not shielding your eyes
from my blinding humility
will one day top the charts

it’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard
and you’re the charlie chaplin of your beautifuls
because you make me believe it
when you say it all without saying a word

looking at you it occurred to me
I could sit around all day
wearing nothing but your kiss

you make mirrors
want to grind themselves
back down into sand
because they can’t do your reflection justice
and this just in
I am done with those
who in life would have made me fight
an army of imperfections
a battalion of flaws
tonight we’re going to keep this city up
when they hear our bodies
slap together like applause.


Visiting Hours (book w/CD) published October 2005
American Pie Chart (CD) published 2004

The Them They're Talking About (as a member of TOFU with Mike McGee & CR Avery) released summer 2005

Set List

Typical set list is about 45 minutes to an hour of original material. Shane pulls from a repetoire of hundreds of poems and stories, and is thus very flexible in tailoring his set to an audience.

Shane has also collaborated with many musicians, so a musical set can be arranged.