I went to see Shane Koyczan this weekend at the Vogue Theatre. My boyfriend is a major fan and I got him tickets for Christmas, confirming my status as “best girlfriend ever”. I had seen a few of Shane’s videos that were widely circulated online, but I wasn’t overly familiar with his work, other than that I knew he was a big deal. He and I have some things in common. He lives in the Okanagan and I spent some of my teenage years there. We both have Aboriginal ancestry. We are both writers, but he just sold out the Vogue, so we are clearly nowhere near in the same realm (but thank you to the 500 of you who read my recent sweatpants and divorce piece, that totally made my day).
I had a really amazing time watching him and there were some things that struck me in his performance.
1) Poetry isn’t lame. Shane talked about the boredom people associate with poetry due to their first experiences being comprised of boring poems in high school that weren’t relevant to their lives. Shane brought relevance to poetry for me, because he talked about things that I understood. Sometimes, to see something clearly, you have to set it on fire. That’s what Shane does for poetry, he ignites it with passion and you can see it. My boyfriend and I talked about it after, about the fun and exciting poetry children are exposed to that we call “children’s literature”. It isn’t categorized as “poetry” until it’s presented in a form the adolescent audience isn’t always ready to understand. That’s why we lose the magic of poetry, we don’t recognize it the first time around. I’m really thankful Shane revived it for me.
2) Pretty is a lie. Shane talked about his imaginative responses to “If you could change something about your body, what would it be?” It was really fascinating to hear about struggles around body image from a man’s perspective. I am not accustomed to that level of candor from a man. Generally, I have these conversations with other women and his words really reinforced for me the universality of this issue. I always thought the pressure to look a certain way was more prevalent among women and it was a moment of realization that life really is tough all over. Shane deconstructed the necessity of outward beauty in the most eloquent manner that it took my breath away. What he said I really needed to hear. He spoke about compassion. A lot of people don’t understand the connection between compassion and body image, but it really is a cornerstone in the foundation of recovery: compassion for others and compassion for self.
3) When your heart is broken, make art from it. Writing is my art too, and admittedly a lot of it comes from pain. Shane made beautiful art from pain. He spoke openly about his struggles with acquired brain injury. Coming from the perspective of someone who has struggled with depression, I can relate to feeling frustrated that your brain isn’t working the way it used to and you aren’t able to access the things you need in the way you always have. I guess it’s helpful to hear that you aren’t alone. That’s why I write, to help people feel like they aren’t alone. Shane’s writing helped me feel like I’m not alone. I’m thankful for the art he made from his pain. “Some people require more light than others, so make extra”. I’m grateful for Shane’s light.
4) I’m not the only one in a complicated relationship with a cat. Shane’s Grandma’s cat is a total jerk (in the most hilarious ways) but also a great comfort to her. Shane regaled us with tales of an obnoxious feline who simultaneously infuriates him and warms his heart. My cats, similarly, are total jerks, but really comforting. My cats flick water on my face while I sleep, empty my underwear drawer and tightrope walk on the shower doors when I’m in the tub so I become deeply aware of gravity and my own susceptibility to injury by way of falling cat claws. While they are complete jerks, they comfort me. I am incredibly terrible at sleeping alone, but it happens a lot in my current reality. One of my cats rests on my hip while I sleep and the pressure comforts me. When the alarm goes off, it’s snuggle time. But they are still jerks. I too wish they were dogs, yet here we are.
I appreciated Shane’s “word dust”, the down to earth way he laughed at himself and the gratitude he exudes. He made me believe it’s possible to make a living stringing words together and if you try hard enough, you really can live your dreams. I’m even more committed to pursuing that now. I got to exchange all of a handful of words with him while I was acquiring one of his books after the show (“Our deathbeds will be thirsty”). I confess, I repurposed one of his best lines in the most ridiculous attempt to woo my boyfriend (“You’re my favourite”). I ate pulled pork poutine at a little place across the street and had one of the most magical nights.
If you have the chance to watch Shane while he’s on tour, I highly recommend it. Check out the upcoming dates and locations here. You can buy merchandise here. You can also see his videos here to sample the magic in the comfort of your own home or download some of favourites from iTunes (I did!).