Shane Koyczan
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Shane Koyczan

Band Spoken Word Folk


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The best kept secret in music


Joel Pott
Lead singer, Athlete

I found Visiting Hours, a collection of work by Canadian poet Shane Koyczan, in a lovely little bookstore in Toronto. I picked it up and straight away read '6:59am' and 'Skin 3' and was hooked. He has an ability to take you straight to the heart of what on the surface may seem like mundane actions but which turn out to be much more complex. He makes you feel the depth of love, joy and pain in everyday life. Love, after all, is in everything.

full link:,16835,1651635,00.html - Guardian Unlimited

November 29, 2005 - 15:57


VANCOUVER (CP) - Not many poets can open for famous rock bands and command the rapt attention of rowdy audiences.

Shane Koyczan, 29, walks on stage before the Rheostatics or Ani Difranco and opens his mouth to speak about love in unimaginably honest and vulnerable ways.

"Sara has a throat like a vase/ she sings her words into bloom/ has a voice like perfume/ it's been sticking to my clothes/ so everyone knows where I've been sleeping.

"She's been keeping me so close/ you could use my body for evidence/ pull her fingerprints as proof/ that she's been on top so often/ she's starting to look like my roof," Koyczan writes in a poem about his late girlfriend, My Darling Sara.

About a year ago, she was killed in a car accident, Koyczan says. It happened two days after his mother died following a battle with multiple sclerosis. Koyczan says he was swamped with grief.

"I'm not a violent person, but I was going out and looking for fights," he says in an east end coffee bar.

Luckily for his audiences and readers, writing was his therapy. The Vancouver-based poet shares his insights, tender moments and fear in his first book, Visiting Hours, published by Mother Press Media.

It's so raw it has tugged at the heart strings of Canadian rockers the Rheostatics who took Koyczan on tour with them in B.C. this fall.

Koyczan, who studied in the creative writing program at Okanagan University College in Kelowna, B.C., became the first international performer to win the individual championship title at the U.S. National Poetry Slam in 2000.

His book, which comes with a five-track CD of readings, debuted at this year's Edinburgh Book Festival where Koyczan shared the stage with Margaret Atwood and Salmon Rushdie.

He has rattled the frontman of the Tragically Hip. In a quote on the back of Visiting Hours, Gord Downie says: "(Listening to) My Darling Sara (I left the ignition on, long after I'd parked, to hear the end of that one). It all sounds like ... something's coming ... a sound everyone asks for."

Koyczan says he owes a lot of his style to a former writing teacher who made an important suggestion: "Be honest, it's worth it."

His breakthrough came when he combined writing with performance to engage audiences in a more direct and personal way.

Koyczan toured folk festivals across Canada this summer, using his rapid-fire style of spoken word to tell stories. And this winter he will criss-cross the country, performing in bars and on campuses.

The hefty Koyczan, who was born and raised in Yellowknife, writes about war and politics and works out his body issues in his poems.

"In the book I've got a lot of poems about death and dying and being sick. A lot of poems about body politics and beauty. (People) shouldn't really be so concerned with that because you don't get a lot of time. You need to move forward, always continue to move forward.

"That's why (I) started off (the book) with a quote from the Velveteen Rabbit by Margerie Williams. She says 'You can't be ugly except to those who don't understand,' which I thought was a perfect tone for the book." - Canadian Press

It isn't often that 29-year-old Shane Koyczan, the only Canadian to have won the National U.S. Slam Poetry Individual Title, finds himself at a loss for words. With lines like "You're so beautiful that when you walk by, flowers turn their heads to smell you" and "I want your body to be something I did wrong: I want you to hold it against me," Koyczan has been thanked by countless would-be Romeos who have successfully massaged his career into their pick-up lines.

This past year however, the Commercial Drive-based poet found himself fast-forwarding on mute. Within the space of a few months, Koyczan was faced with the sudden loss of three loved ones-two close friends to tragic accidents and his mother to illness.

"Eventually, there are circumstances when language fails," he whispers.

Immersed in the grieving process, Koyczan found himself full of rage and anger. He was punching holes in walls for no reason and feeling inclined to start fights. In a frightening show of vulnerability, Koyczan capitulated to his needs and went in for a vigorous round of counselling. At the end of the tunnel, there was some light.

This summer will see the publication of Visiting Hours, a 120-page collection of 42 of his best works. A 12-track performance CD accompanies the text, "so that way people will have an understanding of how the poetry is delivered," Koyczan explains.

Though the book is not yet in circulation, Koyczan has already been invited to read from Visiting Hours alongside literary and storytelling icons Stuart McLean, Margaret Atwood, and Salman Rushdie-to name a few-at the Edinburgh International Book Festival this August. An official launch for the book and CD will take place at the Virgin Megastore on Robson once Koyczan returns to Canada.

Visiting Hours is partially self-published through Mother Press Media, a Vancouver-based collective of Sandy Garossino, Shane Koyczan and Chrystalene Buhler.

Koyczan could easily have gone with another publisher, especially after the interest he garnered in October 2004 during the Vancouver International Writers & Readers Festival, but he thought he'd do better continuing to sell his own CDs and poetry chapbooks while on tour. And once he committed to the Mother Press team-at the time, a nameless collective-he found that the words he sought once again flowed with ease: "When we were discussing what name we'd have for the publishing house, I really wanted to honour my mom."

Mother Press has already issued the first CD for Tons Of Fun University (T.O.F.U.), a trio of hip-hop meets Leonard Cohen meets Ani DiFranco-styled performance poetry. TOFU easily roused the 2004 Vancouver Folk Festival's Saturday night main stage to a standing ovation. The Festival's artistic director, Dugg Simpson, took a big gamble by putting an untested spoken word act on the evening stage, but was overwhelmed with the response. He's since invited TOFU back for the 2005 festival, July 15-17 at Jericho Beach.

When he's touring, Koyczan is often writing at home or in nearby Grandview Park. At times he'll take a break in Zesty's or Turks, or check his email in the local convenience store. Quite often, he'll receive compliments from lovely women of all ages, some friends, and some just admirers.

"A lot of women haven't seen me, but they've heard me-there's lot of CDs floating out around there-and then they come and see a show and they stop and they talk to me and are like: 'Wow, you know, I listen to your voice and your voice is so beautiful. You don't look like you sound,'" he chuckles.

Smiling, Koyczan sits back in his seat. "That's kind of a sideways compliment," he grins, "but at the same time it's like: I must sound pretty amazing."

posted on 06/29/2005 - Vancouver Courier

"Newcomers T.O.F.U. [Shane's spoken word group] were the most unlikely success of the festival. Early on Saturday night's bill, the trio drew some long looks when they claimed the stage, with their plus-size figures and dark suits. Ostensibly a spoken-word act, Mike McGee, CR Avery and Shane Koyczan smash the tired old slam poets cliches with a hip hop sense of rhythm and a disarming sincerity. They absolutely dazzled with an irresistible vitality and optimism. The poem songs themselves were like porn for language lovers -- hot three-way word-on-word action. The closing number, "And I Know," brought the crowd to its feet in what was one of the most hardearned and deserved of the festival's many standing ovations. "
- Regina Leader Post

David Robinson--

"Finally then, it's time to hand out a few awards. Best chairman: Ian Rankin, in a fascinating encounter with Boris Akunin. Books we now must read: a whole heap, but right at the top of it Sebastian Barry's A Long, Long Way. Best haiku: Alan Spence. Best poetry reading: Shane Koyczan. Best superstar: Salman Rushdie."

full article here: - The Scotsman

from Dave Bidini, Rheostatics

“My band -- The Rheostatics-- toured BC this past October. Months before, I was driving the Crown Vic through the stupid rain when I heard a poem on Nora Young’s radio show, The Future: a weird love poem to Britney spears incanted by a writer identified as Shayne Corson. Having clearly underestimated the extended talents of the scrappy ex-Maple Leaf winger, I googled his published work, only to discover that Nora had said “Koyczan,” not “Corson” (the Shayne (sic) part I got right). I corresponded with Koyczan, and then, in the fall, he opened our Western shows. A big Kelvinator of a man who loves “women and free food,” Shayne swallowed the stage with the power of his verse, stepping from subdued deep hot sad love poetry to hip-hop power chord meta-meter, throttling the crowd with the weight of his rhymes, and effectively wiping the stage with us.

While on tour we received copies of his first book, Visiting Hours,...which is all that Shayne is live, as fast and cool, and now as thrillingly rich and moving. And so, a whole new generation of rhyme readers will be born.” - Globe and Mail

There’ll be comparisons aplenty – Gary Snyder, Leonard Cohen, Nick Cave, Paul Durcan, John Cooper Clarke – but Koyczan is staking out his own literary acreage for himself. Koyczan employs a mysterious light touch to rip open your ribcage. Allow it.

--Colum McCann, winner of the Pushcart Prize, the Rooney Prize, the Hennessy Award, the Princess Grace Memorial Literacy Prize, finalist for the IMPAC, adaptation of his novella nominated for 2005 Academy Award - Colum McCann

In 2004, Shane Koyczan hit the stage as the first unpublished writer to grace the stage of the Vancouver International Writers' Festival. When he was done, the audience was on its feet and it was clear that spoken word was finally going to get the literary attention it deserved.

Although it may seem like a relatively new form of poetry, spoken word is rooted back in the days of oral traditions and the Greeks. Like any art, Koyczan says, it tends to cycle and finds new ways to survive.

But spoken word is still a road less travelled by publishers in Canada. It's a "disheartening" thought for Koyczan that "other countries are more willing to accept what you do than your own. I guess it's like never being recognized for your art in your own time."

But the themes of spoken word are anything but archaic, reaching out the audience in both its form and its content.

"People are relating to spoken word because we're talking about their problems and we're talking about it in a way they understand, because it's such media-based society," says Koyczan. "We're absorbing information at such a rapid rate, and poetry has taken that road where we give you a really rapid delivery, but you're going to understand what we're talking about because it's current."

But even though spoken word is re-connecting large audiences to poetry, albeit in a different form, the Yellowknife native decided to take matters into his own hands and start up a small Vancouver-based publishing house.

Harkening back to when the small House of Anansi Press whirred to a start in Toronto in the late 60s - when Canadian writers like Margaret Atwood, Northrop Frye and Michael Ondaatje couldn't get support from large publishing houses - Koyczan coupled up with the Festival's own Sandy Garrisino and birthed Mother Press Media to give talented but unknown international poets and artists a shot at literary success.

"(Mother Press) was kind of a message to other publishers, saying 'look, this is viable thing that you guys are completely passing up.' The world's changing so rapidly you need to come at this from a different angle - you need to bring the bookstore to the show," Koyczan explained.

Currently working on a two-man show with local musician Mark Berube, Koyczan's last book, the award-winning Visiting Hours, is a huge success in print and onstage. Headed into its second printing, Koyczan hopes the book will continue flying off the shelves because, he says with chuckle, "I really can't live in a world where Jewel is the last best seller of poetry. That, to me, just can't happen."
- 24 Hours (by Robyn Stubbs)


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


Feeling a bit camera shy


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."