When poetry books aren’t flying off the shelves, how else are talented poets supposed to share their words? To bridge that gap, many poets are turning toward being heard on a stage instead of reading on a page. Shane Koyczan is one such talented poet and spoken-word artist.

Artist Shane Koyczan. Image courtesy of straight.com

Born on May 22, 1976, in the Yellowknife, Northwest Territories of Canada, he grew up in Penticton, British Columbia where he also attended Okanagan College.  Through his poetry, videos, and TED talks, Shane’s many followers get an insight into the bullying and abuse he suffered growing up.

His poem, now accompanied by an animated video and featured as a TED Talk, entitled To This Day… talks about the abuse and suffering that he endured being different while growing up.

“I earned my first name

Pork Chop

To this day I fucking hate pork chops

I'm not the only kid

Who grew up this way

Surrounded by people who used to say

That rhyme about sticks and stones

As if broken bones

Hurt more than the names we got called”

- A snippet of To This Day… by Shane Koyczan

To embody his horrible experiences growing up and being bullied, he talks about the many others that have suffered. Bullying for a variety of reasons, whether it be financial status, physical attributes etc. is one of the main reasons that growing children and young adults find themselves turning to self-harm and even suicide.

Bullying should never be tolerated as it takes away the human rights of those that endure the pain of words and abuse. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16 is about Standing up for Human Rights as well as Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions, which seems to be a major part of Koyczan’s message.

Shane Koyczan. Image courtesy of TED Talk

In Shane Koyczan’s spoken-word poem Inconvenient Skin, he focuses on the indigenous people of North America whose land was taken from them and for many, their lives. This poem can be heard on his Youtube Channel.

“150 years is not so long

That the history can be forgot

Not so long that

Forgiveness can be bought with empty apologies

Or unkept promises”

- A snippet of Inconvenient Skin by Shane Koyczan

Koyczan goes into the detail of Native American families being pulled apart, impoverished and forgotten. This perfectly embodies the UN SDG Human Rights, but also Goal 10 for Reducing Inequalities. Koyczan has no fear in pointing out the details in a big picture and it shows in this poem.

“150 years

Is just us putting birthday candles

On top of smallpox blankets, teen suicides

And missing murdered women”

- A snippet of Inconvenient Skin by Shane Koyczan

Much of Shane Koyczan’s spoken-word poetry is a call to attention and a call to action for so many problems the world faces. He tackles bullying, inequalities of race, illness and so much more but at the end of the day, it is his powerful words and  message of strength that allows for his words to thunderously succeed on the spoken-word platform.

Artist Shane Koyczan. Image courtesy of Kamloops

“And if you can't see anything beautiful about yourself

Get a better mirror

Look a little closer

Stare a little longer

Because there's something inside you

That made you keep trying”

- A snippet of To This Day… by Shane Koyczan

Currently, Shane Koyczan is not touring due to COVID -19, however, he releases a new poem each month on his website which can be found here.

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