Shane Koyczan and the Short Story Long
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Shane Koyczan and the Short Story Long

Penticton, British Columbia, Canada

Penticton, British Columbia, Canada
Band Spoken Word Rock


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos





[TALK ROCK] If a spoken-word TV channel one day replaces MTV, blame Canada. Or to be exact, blame Canadian poet Shane Koyczan, who writes the kind of deft, vivid prose that is best seen as well as heard. The author of 2005's Visiting Hours and the only Canadian to win the National Poetry Slam (in 2000), Koyczan uses his lumbering body as a prop bag and his often gawky, occasionally elegant reactions to love and loss as an emotional equalizer. Part stand-up comic, part secular evangelical spirit on stage, Koyczan's warm, strident voice tumbles over his words, gathering speed and gaining mass second by second like a snowball thundering down a mountain. His hands and neck move like a '60s soul diva as he spouts references to everything from James Cameron movies to Beethoven, painting word pictures that flash from greasy spoons and stop signs to the very muscles of the human heart. WW caught up with the Canuck via telephone—as he made himself a chicken burger lunch—to talk about raw emotion, poetry groupies and the pressing need for juice in this world. KELLY CLARKE.
After watching you perform on YouTube, I have a very important do you combat dry mouth?
[Laughs] You really have to slow down, because your tongue does get dry. [Speaking fast is] a logical thing for me to do while performing...if I'm trying to get something across that I consider very urgent I might speed up the cadence a bit for effect, I guess. Sometimes emotion gets the better of you, and you don't even know you're reading that fast.

I hear you entered the 2000 U.S. Poetry Slam Competition because you needed money. But that's not when poetry caught you...
My friends and I ran a reading in Penticton, a very small town [in British Columbia]. Five people would come and listen to us read poems back and forth to each other. I didn't know what slam was. I didn't know there was a scene for it. It was what we'd been doing all along.

Not knowing what "slam" is seems to be a stumbling block for people. It's like they imagine Mike Myers doing the "Woman, Whoa-man" poem from So I Married an Axe Murderer
That's more beat poetry. Slam is not a reference to the style of poetry, it's in reference to the competition aspect. It's a forum for spoken word. I think that's where people get confused. There is comedy, sonnets, hip-hop, all kinds of poetry inside of slam.

So how do you characterize what you do onstage?
Talk rock.

Where'd you come up with that?
I have no idea. Drunk at a wedding?

What's a hallmark of your poems and performances?
I think I might just be a little bit better at accessing emotions and remembering why I wrote [a poem] in the first place. Some people just recite their work, and it's very good and very polished, but they refuse to step back into the spot where they were when they went through what they went through. I think you need to stand onstage with a certain level of emotional nudity. And I feel comfortable with that, seeing that I am very uncomfortable with physical nudity.

I think right there, flipping back and forth between a raw emotional state to comedy, that quick flip, that's a Koyczan signature.
I believe in what Charlie Chaplin said: "Humor sharpens our sense of survival and preserves our sanity." I think you need humor to deal with the atrocious things you go through, be it unreciprocated love or death...

Tell me about a poem where you used humor to deal...
"Visiting Hours" is a poem about a friend of mine, Ann, who I knew growing up in Yellowknife. She died of breast cancer [in 1989]. She was such a funny woman, she refused to deal with it just with sadness.... She saw the humor, too. That's where it started for me. That's probably the first experience where I thought, there's humor in this.

In your work, you really pick up on some emotions, like love—
Well...OH MY GOD. [loud beeping sound in the background] FLASH FIRE.... [smoke alarm shuts off] [grunting sound]...[silence]…OK, we got it under control.

Did that really just happen? As I was saying, you have a great way of describing that gawky-wonderful awe of being in love, or lust…
Yeah, that's the thing, they're not love poems, they're longing poems. I think they're easier [because] you're able to put yourself out there in that position of, like, "I'm all fucked up over you." Because it's not a love poem I'm able to say, "I wanna rip off my own head and throw it toward your lips" and I can get away with it...because they already said no. So, it's all good.

Come on, after you say that onstage, you've gotta pull chicks…
I've definitely had offers...and groupies. But I'm more interested in people who are interested in me before they see the show. I prefer to date scientists and doctors...they have a different world, they look at things differently.… When I get offstage the last thing I wanna talk about is [literature]. I want to stare at a wall and drink copious amounts of cranberry juice.

What's the most uncomfortable aspect of this job?
I'm still a very socially awkward creature. I have a hard time dealing with compliments. There is nothing that I can say that is beyond "thank you." I mean it, I have nothing better to say but "thank you" and I'm a writer? What the fuck?!? I'm like, argh, I should be better at this.

How do you know when you've got a crowd's attention?
If you see people in the front row crying, then they are probably with you. That's a good feeling.

What's the oddest experience you've had onstage?
I did a poem about a girl that I was seeing who had passed away and then...somebody threw a pair of panties on stage. I was like, wha?, did you not hear what I just did?

What color were they?
They were beige. But they were actually really nice, though.

What's the best thing that's been thrown onstage?
When people throw themselves on stage. It's strange to have the stage rushed after reading my poetry. Great…and scary. I have beautiful, beautiful, amazing fans that sometimes travel great distances just to see a show, so I cannot begrudge them their excitedness to run up onstage.

Anything else readers should know about you?
Just…if you're gonna throw anything onstage at [Wordstock], throw juice boxes.

- Kelly Clarke

"Author Profile"

Shane Koyczan (from May 2006 issue)

Spreading the (spoken) word

by Cheri Hanson

With biting honesty and a riveting stage presence, 29-year-old Vancouver spoken word artist Shane Koyczan is quickly obliterating all the rules of poetry and forging his own literary path. Here’s the evidence.

Exhibit A: Koyczan turned down multiple publishing offers, both in Canada and overseas, to launch his own Mother Press Media and publish his first poetry collection, Visiting Hours.

Exhibit B: Five months after its 2005 release, Visiting Hours has sold 2,500 copies and appears to be heading for a sizeable second print run (though the final numbers haven’t been determined yet). The title also appeared on the Guardian’s online “Books of the Year” list for 2005.

Exhibit C: Koyczan makes a living strictly from poetry and spoken word performances. He has not waited tables, poured coffee, penned freelance reviews, or worked in a video store for eight years. And no, he doesn’t live in his car.

Exhibit D: He performs at folk festivals and literary events with a spoken word group called Tons of Fun University (TOFU). Composed of Koyczan, U.S. poet Mike McGee, and writer/musician C.R. Avery, TOFU will perform an estimated 45 shows this year in addition to Koyczan’s own 200-plus bookings.

Exhibit E: In March, Koyczan opened for cult rockers the Violent Femmes at Toronto’s Massey Hall. His 30-minute set drew calls for an encore, even as fans waited for the legendary band to hit the stage.

Naturally, Koyczan’s start as a writer also breaks the mould. Born in Yellowknife, Koyczan says he was unpopular in high school and struggled to communicate by writing prepared responses for questions and conversations. “I thought if I said some random stuff, they’d leave me alone,” says Koyczan. “Then people started saying, ‘You’ve got to talk to Shane. He says the weirdest, craziest stuff.’”

After high school, Koyczan attended Okanagan University College in Penticton, B.C., where creative writing instructor Nancy Holmes suggested he set aside fiction and try his hand at poetry. The genre stuck and Koyczan soon started a poetry night at the Hog’s Breath Café with his friend Matt Bowen.

After moving to Vancouver, Koyczan continued to hone his craft at open mic nights and poetry competitions. He developed his unique performance style at home with a decidedly neutral audience. “I’d perform for the cat, and if the cat’s eyes got wider, I knew I was doing something crazy. Or if it started looking really scared, I thought, ‘Okay, I’ll back it down a bit.’”

In 2000, Koyczan won the individual championship at the National Poetry Slam in Providence, Rhode Island – topping 250 North American competitors to become the first-ever winner from outside the U.S. In Great Britain, The Scotsman newspaper’s David Robinson called his performance at the 2005 Edinburgh International Book Festival the best poetry reading of the event. Closer to home, he has also won the 2004 CBC Radio Poetry Face-Off.

Koyzcan has collected international accolades and a diverse fan base that ranges from teenagers to musicians such as Ani DiFranco and major writers including Maya Angelou. All he lacked, until recently, was Canadian fame. The tide shifted at an event that has become a literary urban legend. Koyczan was asked to perform the sponsorship poem at the 2004 Vancouver International Writers & Readers Festival, and his seven-minute performance blew the crowd right out of their seats. “In my 10 years at the festival, I’ve never seen anything like what I saw that night,” says Sandy Garossino, a longtime festival boardmember and co-founder of Mother Press Media. “He finished and the room just erupted – and this is a room of writers and publishers. So, talk about a jury of one’s peers.”

Garossino offered to help Koyczan secure a book deal, but the pair soon realized that a traditional publisher might not be able to support and nurture his performance-based career. So Garossino stepped in with financial backing, McArthur & Company publisher Kim McArthur agreed to distribute the book, and with the addition of Vancouver editor Chrystalene Buhler, the Mother Press Media collective was born. “You go into Chapters and that poetry section just keeps shrinking and shrinking and shrinking,” says Koyczan. “It was important for me to have a book in a store, but I also wanted to continue to do what I do, which is touring around and selling books out of my bag.”

Mother Press Media has several new poetry titles and graphic novels in the works, says Buhler, and continues to support Koyczan’s quickly ascending career. “Shane’s work is very narrative. It’s deceptively simple.”

Garossino believes Koyczan’s performances are exceptional, but says she felt anxious about how the work would translate to the printed page. “You put your money down on someone and then think, ‘Am I really crazy? Do I know what I’m doing?’”

Her fear was officially quelled in October 2005 at Calgary’s WordFest. Koyczan led a poetry reading that included Margaret Atwood, Robert Sullivan, and Richard Harrison. The festival bookstore was a mob scene at intermission, says Garossino, as audience members snapped up Koyczan’s book. “People were grabbing two or three.” Visiting Hours sold 83 copies in 10 minutes. “At that point, I knew I wasn’t crazy.”

- Quill and Quire

""Stickboy" book review"


Koyczan kills
I’ve heard Shane Koyczan perform spoken word five or six times now, and I think he may be one of the greatest orators on earth. Right up there with Obama. Seriously.

Inevitably, the question arises – is his power in the writing or more in the performance?

Stickboy, his debut novel in verse, puts that question to rest. The book succeeds admirably without the advantage of Koyczan’s onstage delivery.

The story covers key stages in the life of a boy who is constantly bullied for being overweight. Koyczan’s narrative keeps the suspense quotient high and the sentimentality low, but the real star is his grippingly readable style. The gift for apt metaphor and snappy phrasing he displays in his poetry is even better controlled here.

He reminds me of writers like Raymond Chandler and even Jack Kerouac. A face is like an over-steamed potato with a butter knife jab for a mouth. The spaghetti strap on a girl’s gown hangs just off her shoulder like a smile on her arm.

Koyczan has a fertile imagination and spends such metaphors freely. Not all of them come up to the high standard he sets with the best of them. If I were his editor, I’d probably nix about one in 10. Then I’d immediately run to Scholastic and try to cut a distribution deal, because a wise, compassionate book like this on the subject of bullying could go down big in the school system.

Koyczan is still a very young writer – he’s only 30 – but if he continues to develop his talent at this pace, I can easily see him selling a lot of books and becoming a key writer for his generation.

- Now Books


Shane Koyczan - The Skinny Event
Edinburgh International Book Festival

Magnificent, and magnificently bearded, Canadian performance poet Shane Koyczan lassoed his audience with a skilfully constructed introductory haiku, and before long had us eating out of his hand. Okay, enough with the horse whisperer metaphors, though that was pretty much the renowned slam poet’s effect on the crowd, as he performed poems on such diverse subjects as angels, being run over by a snowmobile, and proving (fetchingly and irrefutably) that fat people can write romantic/erotic verse. His recitals ranged from machine-gunning stanzas-a-second to slow slick liquid verse; call it word jazz if you like. Forget whether you think you’re into poetry readings or not – look him up, go see him - he’s awesome.

Highland Park Spiegeltent, 22 Aug, 7.00pm, fpp n/a

published: Sep-2008

[Sonya Hallet] - Edinbourgh Three Weeks Review

"press release"

Press Release - Shane Koyczan

The Cultch presents

October 26 & 27, 2007, 8 pm

& the Short Story Long

OCTOBER 26 & 27/07, 8:00 PM TWO NIGHTS ONLY!

Listen to Koyczan read!

"Shane Koyczan is quickly obliterating all the rules of poetry and forging his own literary path." -- Quill & Quire

You only have to hear Shane Koyczan read once to be hooked - humane, furious, sexy, political, tragic and so funny you'll be laughing through your tears. With musical accompaniment by the Short Story Long, Shane moves from subdued, deep, sad love poetry to power chord hip-hop meta-meter.

Born in 1975 in Yellowknife, Canada, Shane broke into the literary world at the Vancouver International Writers Festival in 2004. His performance there led to the publication of his first book, Visiting Hours, which won acclaim in both Canada and the UK. He has since appeared at the UK's most prestigious literary festivals, has featured on the BBC and was selected as a highlight of the 2005 Edinburgh International Book Festival, along with Salman Rushdie, Ian Rankin and Sebastien Barry.

Shane is the first non-American to win the prestigious US National Poetry Slam, and has performed to full houses around the world.

What the critics are saying:
"Read Shane Koyczan... the future of poetry is in good hands" - Maya Angelou

"The best spoken word performer I've ever seen." - Utah Phillips

"It all sounds like something's coming... a sound everyone asks for." - Gord Downie (The Tragically Hip)

Shane Koyczan performs at The Cultch for two nights only! October 26 & 27, at 8 pm at the Vancouver East Cultural Centre, located at 1895 Venables Street (at Victoria Drive). For more information, visit The Cultch's web site <WWW.THECULTCH.COM>.

- The Cultch


"The Crickets Have Arthritis" 2006 - CD
"A Pretty Decent Cape In My Closet" 2007 - CD

"A Pretty Decent Cape in my Closet" available at itunes,, and other internet music sites.

Streaming airplay of "A Pretty Decent Cape in My Closet"



Shane Koyczan and The Short Story Long

Multi award winning spoken word performer Shane Koyczan breathes life into the new genre of talk rock with his band the Short Story Long, a musical trio (Olivia Mennell, Maiya Robbie, and Stefan Bienz) whose musical range stretches from folk to funk, showcasing all of the beautiful in between. A sound that is always accessible but by turns hilarious, moving and deeply profound...often all in the same song. Playing to sold-out theaters and receiving standing ovations, this critically acclaimed group is swiftly moving to the forefront of the indie music scene.

Here's what some folks are saying...

"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, Esquire Magazine Writer of the Year 2003, author of Zoli

"It's a rare poet who can make his audience laugh and cry; this is a writer who will break your heart then heal it."
- Val McDermid, author of The Grave Tattoo

"Shane's performance was absolutely mind blowing, life changing, and inspiring. …Now I don't really rave about people but SHANE KOYCZAN IS ONE OF THE MOST INCREDIBLE POETS I'VE EVER HEARD."
- Charlie Dark, Blacktronica (UK)

"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. 
Ride hard, and ride, ride, ride."
- Gordon Downie, Musician/Songwriter, lead singer of the Tragically Hip