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Posts Tagged ‘shane koyczan’

I would like to draw your attention to the following video.

Here, Shane Koyczan performs his own spoken word piece entitled “We Are More” in a promotional video created by Canadian Tourism.

He performed the same piece at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics Opening Ceremonies atop an intimidatingly tall stage structure surrounded by millions of people with millions more watching him on live television.

I thought that was pretty cool.

There have been some valid criticisms about his poem and performance. As someone familiar with Shane’s poetry and music, I have to say he’s written and performed better. His piece utilized numerous Canadian cliches (intentionally, as the poem does clearly state that “we are more” than these cliches; but still) and doesn’t really say anything truly revolutionary about Canada.

I completely acknowledge this. And yet, it really doesn’t bother me: because I think that the supreme coolness of having spoken word – performed by a reputable spoken word poet – at the Olympics far surpasses any quibbles I or anyone else might have about the content. Though a mention of the Francophone community, I agree, would have been nice.

Some people (heck, most people) in Canada have never heard of spoken word. This was a gentle, accessible introduction to the art form: perhaps not the most exemplary piece we could have offered (it was used as a tourism video, for heaven’s sake), but something decent that garnered a lot of attention and will very likely inspire people to look up spoken word on the internet, and thereby discover other amazing spoken word poets across Canada and around the world. I am grateful to Shane for creating this buzz around the art form.

Here’s something I’ve realized: whenever you do something interesting, noteworthy, or appear in any sort of public arena, it is inevitable that some people will love you and others will find something to hate about you. Regardless of whether or not it was your intention to be controversial.

This morning I noticed that some people were writing rather harsh messages on Shane’s Facebook Group, calling the poem “fake” and accusing him of “bastardizing” the art form*. I found this… unnecessary. It seems that these people wanted what this poem wasn’t: they wanted (and I’m paraphrasing here) an activist piece that pointed out what is wrong with Canada and what we can do to effect change.

From what I understand, this poem was intended to be celebratory, not an excuse to make grand statements about the tar sands in Alberta, the homeless situation in Vancouver, our pathetic federal government, or cuts to arts funding. Yes, these topics are important — but do you honestly think the Olympics committee would have programmed a political tirade for the opening ceremonies? Does everything have to be about anarchy?

Honestly, though, I want to know: what should this poem have told us about Canada? Should it have been celebratory or critical, or both? Are these whiny little buggers just jealous, or are they making a valid point?

By the way, there is a full version of “We Are More” on the House of Parlance website. Have a listen.

*One of these comments has now been removed by its author.

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The Writers Festival was kind enough to invite me to a reception last night that was held in the honour of none other than Michael Ignatieff, award-winning novelist and leader of the official opposition. Now I realize I’ve donned myself the boastful title of artsy socialite, but I’m a little ashamed to admit that I did not actually try to converse with the next potential Prime Minister of Canada. I felt shy! Him and I did, however, make eye contact from a few feet away; and I think he smiled at me. It was all very exciting, considering how distinguished looking he is.

He gave a talk in the main hall afterward, and the Writers Festival staff crammed 800 people into St. Brigid’s to hear him speak. The buzz was amazing.

Shaena Lambert

Shaena Lambert

Alas, I had to sneak off a little early to attend the Literary Cabaret at the NAC 4th Stage. But it was so worth it. Once again I got great front row seats and was in the right position for some fabulous close-up photos. (By the way, it takes me forever and a half to upload photos to this site, so I usually only post a couple and then include the rest in an album on Facebook. If for some insane reason you don’t have Facebook and you still want to see more photos, let me know, and I’ll make them more accessible.)

I should probably explain how this Literary Cabaret works. Essentially, conductor-percussionist Sal Ferreras and his band Poetic License become acquainted with the writers that will be reading their work that evening and create a score that suits the reading material. The orchestration is intended to be in dialogue with the reading, and the effect is magnificent. In fact, I wish someone had recorded these performances because I think it would be a totally great companion item for a novel: “listen to the author read a section from the novel, backed up by a fabulous band!” Just think of the marketing opportunities…

Steven Galloway reading with Sal Ferreras conducting in the background

Steven Galloway reading with Sal Ferreras conducting in the background

Anosh Irani

Anosh Irani

Shaena Lambert and Steven Galloway have wonderful readings in the first half of the evening. I was especially blown away by the hilarious writing of Anosh Irani, so much so that I bought his first novel. (I haven’t had the chance to do much reading for pleasure lately, so this is a big deal for me.) And, of course, Shane Koyczan was… you know, I wish when I invited people to a spoken word performance, they wouldn’t look at me as if I was crazy. I always have to defend the art form by saying: no, I mean, it’s like going to a concert… only you can hear the lyrics better… and usually there’s a story… and it might even make you cry, but in the best possible way… and you’ll want to relive those moments over and over again when you felt your heart was going to rise out of your chest and explode… and your mind just had the greatest orgasm possible… and you can’t even form words afterward, for the heat of it all… and all you want to do is go home and write something, anything, because maybe your thoughts, even the seemingly insignifcant ones, are, in fact, worth preserving.

Next time, just trust me. It’s worth taking the chance.

Shane Koyczan (sans book) with Sal Ferreras conducting in the background

Shane Koyczan (sans book) with Sal Ferreras conducting in the background

THIS EVENING: Dusty Owl at the Writers Festival and Assembly at the NAC Panorama Room

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