'We have worn your music like a stitch over an open vein': Poet Shane Koyczan remembers Gord Downie
The Hip's music helped Koyczan reconnect with his estranged mother before she passed away
Shane Koyczan was in a hospital bed last year, recovering from a leg surgery, as Gord Downie embarked on his farewell tour with The Tragically Hip.
The B.C. spoken-word poet wasn't able to attend a show. So, he wrote Downie a poem titled Gift Shop.
There's going to be a scar
born on top of the day you leave us
that's what I've learned about hurt
it is a gift shop that we linger in
Listen to Koyczan read "Gift Shop" on CBC's On the Coast:
Downie died Tuesday night at the age of 53 from an aggressive and incurable form of brain cancer called glioblastoma.
His lyrics had a profound impact on Koyczan, who has spoken out in his poetry about bullying and abuse.
In Gift Shop, he writes:
because there have been nights
we have worn your music
like a stitch over an open vein
Koyczan told guest host Gloria Macarenko that "one of the beautiful aspects of art is that pieces of the artist are always left behind.
"No matter where we are now, Gord Downie's music is never going anywhere."
Downie's music helped Koyczan reconnect with his estranged mother before she passed away.
He played her some Leonard Cohen and she passed on The Hip.
"There was just a lot of meat on the bone artistically with that band in particular," he said.
"She really opened up that world for me."
As Koyczan's own career took off, he ran into Downie at festivals over the years. He was struck by the frontman's humility.
"There's a lot of people that I think get wrapped up in the narratives that I think are projected onto them," he said.
But Downie "would engage with anyone, anytime, on any subject."
Koyczan, whose powerful poetry has been widely acclaimed, reflected on the artistry of Downie's lyrics.
He "gave people permission to take those words and glean their own meaning from them," Koyczan said.
"That, I think, is one of the great properties of any great artist."
With files from CBC's On the Coast