Poet of the Week: Shane Koyczan

Colour Quadriptych II

Symbol quadriptych in colour

Shane Koyczan’s name might sound a bit familiar to Western Canadians in particular because he was the spoken word poet who performed as part of Vancouver’s 2010 Olympic opening ceremonies.

This week, I’ve been reading Koyczan’s book of verse, Our Deathbeds Will Be Thirsty, and have been liking it immensely.  For some reason, I thought spoken word poetry would involve end rhyme.  It actually doesn’t most of the time (or at least Koyczan’s doesn’t) but it has a crazy strong sense of rhythm when you read it.  There are poetic tricks like repetition, alliteration, and rhyming in the pieces but often within lines or between connected words.

“I watch his hands curl around a cuff link and a tie tack/and realize that every knick knack is a treasure/and every treasure has a story/and every time I think I can’t handle more/he hits me with another story” (p.31 from The Crickets Have Arthritis)

There are often numerous plays on words and idioms and their meanings.

“…we never took the time it takes/to analyze the mistakes we made/we stayed at a stalemate where the rate of progress/is equal to a snail’s pace in a rat race where people chase fairytales/in which all the happy endings get married to the tragic/beginnings” (p.40 from Let Me Go)

And as it’s poetry, there are still images used to tell a story.  The following is again from The Crickets Have Arthritis and is about sharing a hospital room with a boy with cancer:

“… I’ll be out of here in a couple days/smoking cigarettes and taking my life for granted/and he’ll still be planted in his bed like a flower that refuses to grow” (p.33)

Koyczan’s book was an interesting read.  Some pieces were more serious, some more playful, and many ended with a twist you didn’t necessarily see coming but enjoyed where it took you.

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