Every now and again, you need to attach a pair of battery clamps to your soul and turn up the juice; get that electricity flowing from the soles of your feet to the very tips of every hair follicle on your head.
And I know it may sound unexpected in this age of wireless doodads with world-wide connections to the collective consciousness of the planet, but that juice, that energy is in poetry. Or more specifically, in the spoken word poetry of Shane Koyczan.
Performing at the Belfry as part of its annual Spark fest, Koyczan is a gentle giant of a man who wears his heart on the outside for all to see. His show, When I was A Kid, peels back the diary (or journals, as he’ll tell you with a sly wink — boys don’t keep diaries) on his childhood in the Yukon where he grew up in the care of his grandparents after his “too young” parents ran away from the responsibility.
His poems are full of heartache and memory that touches so deep that emotion crackles in the air around you. And, sure, there are moments of utter, gut-wrenching sadness when he talks about the brave woman who lost her breasts to cancer, or the young girl who contracted AIDS through a blood transfusion, or the school friend who, like Koyczan, was shunned for being different. But out of this sadness comes such strength, truth and hope that we want to stand up and cheer. Such is the power of Koyczan’s words and delivery.
There is also laughter, buckets of it; dig down deep into your belly and roar laughter. Koyczan’s poetry is complemented by a wonderful group of musicians (Maiya Robbie, Jesse Lee, Olivia Mennell and Jordie Robinson) known as The Short Story Long who add to this explosion of emotion with under-stated perfection. Stand-up bass punctuates, cello accentuates, guitar luxuriates and keyboard perforates, while backing vocals swirl around the spoken word like blossoms on a cherry tree.
With two richly deserved standing ovations on opening night, this shy showman with the bushy beard and wire-rimmed glasses holds the audience in the palm of his hand — and there’s no place else we’d rather be. M
When I was A Kid continues nightly until March 24 at Belfry Mainstage.
Tickets $20 adult/ $15 post secondary/$10 High school students
250-385-6815 or belfry.bc.ca/tickets