Magazine article Opera Canada

Shane Koyczan

Magazine article Opera Canada

Shane Koyczan

Article excerpt

Shane Koyczan, writer, poet and virtuoso spokenword artist, is making his opera debut by a roundabout route. He's been making art since he was a student in the Creative Writing Programme at Okanagan Community College in Penticton, BC, in the late 1990s. He took the advice of one of his teachers to abandon fiction and concentrate on poetry, which proved to be a defining decision in his life. Up to that point, Koyczan had struggled to cope with the trauma of being a victim of relentless childhood bullying and regret for having become a bully in retaliation.Through writing and performing poetry, he began to create an appropriate outlet for his emotional stress.

His career began modestly with recitals at poetry nights at a local cafe in Penticton. It progressed to entering competitions at home and abroad, and appearing at folk festivals and literary events. During this period, he honed his unique performance style, which has been described as "riveting." By 2006, he was earning a living from public appearances and the sale of his books, which were published by a collective launched in Vancouver by Koyczan and colleagues who knew the book trade. His first collection, Visiting Hours, was the only work of poetry listed by The Globe and Mail and The Guardian on their Best Books of 2005.

His growing fame reached international heights after he performed his patriotic poem, We Are More, at the opening ceremonies of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics to a live audience of over 60,000 and a media audience of millions. Three years later, he delivered his poem about bullying, To This Day, at the prestigious TED2013 Conference in Long Beach, Calif. It was described as a "bravura" performance, and shortly afterwards a video of it on YouTube went viral. By this time, Koyczan had won numerous prizes and awards, and had an impressive list of publications to his credit.

In 2008, he published his autobiographical novel in verse about bullying, Stickboy, referring to the sticks of dynamite the bullied boy imagines his fingers to be when he begins to fight back.Vancouver ; Opera General Director James Wright read the book in December 2012, and, immediately recognizing its operatic potential, contacted Koyczan to ask if he would consider turning it into a libretto. …

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