Return of the poet

Shane Koyczan back at the Key City Theatre Wednesday, Nov. 1

A lot has happened since Shane Koyczan was last in Cranbrook in 2015. One might say the world has changed, with the election of Donald Trump, and the advent of a digitally saturated world, the age of the social media troll.

But it’s certainly grist for the poet’s inspiration mill.

“It’s a strange time to be an artist, because there’s no shortage of things we can write about,” Koyczan said in an interview with the Townsman, ahead of his return to the Key City Theatre in Cranbrook, set for November 1.

“It seems daily we wake up, and we check our phones for the latest damage report.”

Shane Koyczan is at the forefront of today’s spoken word arts movement and poetry as performance.

The Penticton artist and writer has reached millions with his message, speaking out against bullying, and celebrating tolerance and the individual.

“With spoken word, or poetry, or anybody who’s going to get up there and speak their mind, that’s really taking ownership,” Koyczan said. “These are my thoughts, these are my opinions, these are my beliefs, this is what I think about this. And this can sometimes get you into trouble.”

Koyczan sees the tumultuous political happenings in the U.S. as giving more voice to that country’s more extremist elements, and brought that voice more to the forefront. The level of discourse has become more heated, more aggressive. But speaking out against that extremism has never been more important.

“Speaking your mind has never been an easy thing,” he said. “I think they list public speaking as the number one fear. It’s always a nerve-wracking thing, because you never know when you’re going to encounter people whose beliefs are different than yours, and they’re aggressive about they’re beliefs.

“But it’s like anything — you stand in your truth and say this is what you think.”

A lot has happened in Koyczan’s life as well, personally and creatively. Not least the release of the film “Shut Up And Say Something,” a documentary showing Koyczan’s reconnection with his estranged father, which won the Most Popular Canadian Documentary at the Vancouver Film Festival earlier this month, and is earmarked for festivals in the U.S., like Sundance.

He has also released a new book, “Turn on a Light,” a graphic novel of the poem of the same name.

“There’s always something new on the horizon, there’s new happenings all the time, in your life or the lives of people around you.,” he said. “I think that’s the thing about inspiration — there’s no shortage of it.”

Koyczan is a prolific writer and artist, but performance of his work is what sets him apart.

“It connects me to people on a really different level,” he said of his shows. “What it does for me, personally, is it really cuts down that isolation that I think a lot of travelling artists feel. I go to a place,and I feel ‘okay, these people get me; they understand what I’m saying. I’m opening a vein on stage and they’re not looking away.’”

Koyczan will be performing new material for his Cranbrook audience, Wednesday, Nov. 1.

“Every show is new material,” he said. “It’s like comedy, right? You can’t just keep reading the same things over and over again.

“It’s so hard, though because the one difference between comedy and spoken word is people really want to hear your old stuff. You go to a comedian year after year, you don’t want to hear the same jokes.”

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