Oct 25

Getting down with Shane Koyczan – The poet opens up about new work and his creative process

by Jenna Shummoogum · 0 comments

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A friend gave me A pretty decent cape in my closet three years ago, and I fell in love with Shane Koyczan’s work. Since then I’ve had a tumultuous relationship with Koyczan’s art. I’ve loved endlessly his older poetry, but haven’t been a fan of his more recent work. The Glenbow Museum is presenting Koyczan as part of their In Residence program, a program where they invite diverse artists from a variety of disciplines to interact with Glenbow’s exhibitions and collections and create new work. So Koyczan is creating new work? And I have the opportunity to interview him about it?   I couldn’t pass this up.

You may know Koyczan as the spoken word poet who performed at the opening ceremonies of the Olympics in Vancouver. He did his poem We Are More. “I’m definitely more recognized for sure,” he says when prompted about the Olympic experience, “I don’t think it was just for me, it really opened up the art form. When people are like, ‘I don’t know what spoken word is,’ [people can say] remember that guy from the Olympics? Oh ya! Totally.”
It was a really positive experience for Koyczan, but he was worried about fan backlash and fans not supporting his work because he would get popular. But he had nothing to worry about. “My fans were incredible,” he says, “they were so supportive.”

Koyczan came into the Glenbow a month ago to start this project.

“Originally when I started I was focusing in on doing very specific pieces. Then I went away and started processing all this stuff,” he says. “What I really got out of my visit to the Glenbow was that looking at my past is important as well, I guess for the longest time I didn’t want to re-examine my past, because it was very dark and bleak,” he explains. “What the Glenbow really did for me was open me up and say, you can’t throw away this part of your life because this is exactly who you are, and it really gave me a chance to look at my childhood and say these are some pretty cool stories and they were horrible at the time, but they’re pretty funny now.”

Koyczan has delved into his past quite a bit in his most recent work, in particular Shut up and say something and Stickboy. “It’s different,” he says when asked how his new work is different by comparison. “I’ve always been open about my feelings, but I’ve never been open about who I actually am. I say all these things and I string words together in a nice way, but have I told you anything about myself? And that’s really what’s starting to happen now.”

And it’s true. We don’t really know very much about what makes Koyczan who he is, though we know what he’s been through. Quite extensively. “I’d narrowed [my previous work] down to this one horrible thing that I didn’t like,” he explains, “when in actual fact there are all these different things going on.”

“It’s rewarding for me to be on stage with a certain level of emotional nudity,” is his response to whether he felt he had to do this as an artist. “It’s granted me access to a part of my life that I didn’t want to expose. My trip to the museum opened  me up to all this beautiful history, and I really just realized that there is something beautiful about my own history.”

This new work is pretty darn personal and in fact, all of Koyczan’s previous work has been extremely personal. Which of his pieces is he most connected to? “Uhhh. Really?” he groans at having to pick just one. “Move Pen Move. My Darling Sarah.” Koyczan will do old work as well at his performance at the Glenbow tonight.

“That’s the single most ridiculous or preposterous thing about my work,” Koyczan replies when prompted about his creative process. “I actually write in reverse, so I start with the ending because the ending has to be the summation of what I want to say. So when a piece is done for me, it’s started.” Koyczan goes further into detail about how he writes, “I start with the skeleton, then I put on the muscles, then I put on the skin. Now I sounds like a mortician”

Shane Koyczan presents new work tonight at the Conoco Phillips Theatre, from 7:00 – 8:30pm. There will be a Q and A session after the performance. More information is available here. (Or you can win tickets here!)

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