Shane Koyczan's love poem to Canada

Drawing of Shane Koyczan with a hero's cape. Picture by Andrew Dimitt
First aired on The Next Chapter  (06/28/10)

You might know Shane Koyczan as that guy who read that poem at the opening ceremony of Vancouver's Winter Games.

That was the night Koyczan captured the imagination of the country with his love poem to Canada, "We Are More" — a stirring description of what it means to be Canadian.

Although the audience at the opening ceremonies was the largest Koyczan had ever stood before, he's no stranger to the stage. As a working spoken word artist, Koyczan travels regularly to perform his work all over the world.

In fact, it was during one of those stints abroad that Koyczan was approached by the Canadian Travel Commission to write a poem about Canada. Initially stumped about how to describe what he loves about home, Koyczan credits a bout of homesickness with helping him gain some perspective and create the piece that would become "We Are More."

"Being away for a while really gave me that handle on what I love about Canada, and that's when it came to me," Koyczan told The Next Chapter's Shelagh Rogers. "I love all these little things. And yeah, we're made up of all these clichés, and they're clichés for a reason, because they're true, but we're more than that as well. There are so many things that I'm proud of and that I love about Canada, so that's where I really got into it."

Poetry was also something Koyczan had to warm up to. His original plan was to become a professional wrestler. But when his school bumped him from drafting to drama (the next course in alphabetical order), Koyczan was introduced to the incredible power of language to connect people.

Drawing attention to and creating a space for this connection between individuals is something Koyczan continues to emphasize at his shows.

"One of the greatest influences in my life," Koyczan said, "Was someone who ironically rarely spoke at all. But when he did speak, he really made it count — Charlie Chaplin. And he said in the movie The Great Dictator — which was his first talking movie so for him to really choose that moment says something — and what he said was that human beings want to live by each other's happiness, not by each other's misery. And I think that's absolutely true."

Koyczan has published two books of poetry, Visiting Hours and Stickboy. Visiting Hours was selected by both the Guardian and the Globe and Mail as one of the best books of 2005.

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Read more about Koyczan's performance at the opening ceremonies.

Check out more of Koyczan's work at his personal website.

Listen to the full version of "We Are More" below:

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