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Penticton poet goes viral with To This Day

Penticton spoken word artist Shane Koyczan created a video to take a stand against bullying that has been viewed over 4.6 million times.
Penticton Poet Shane Koyczan produced an animated video of his piece To This Day that has gone viral and heightened the awareness of bullying.

With over 4.6 million YouTube views and continuing to grow, Penticton’s Shane Koyczan has built an army to stand up against bullying.

All with the power of his words and collaboration with 80 animators creating a seven minute video for his piece To This Day.

“Oh my god,” said Koyczan when told the current view count. “I can’t say that I am shocked because it is such a big subject and something that people are really passionate about. I think it is something a lot of people are dealing with.”

Koyczan shares his story of being bullied and seeing others undergo the same treatment in To This Day. It was about four years ago he penned the piece, which is featured on the 2012 album Remembrance Year with his band the Short Story Long.

“To me it is all therapy and that is really what writing is for me. You get something off your chest and the positive feeling behind it is that it reaches the people who have gone through something similar,” said Koyczan.

The poet realized when he was young he was not the only one being bullied.

“There was just this terrible fear that if you intervened then their bully would become your bully and that would make your life just that much worse. A lot of us, just based on fear, we stuck to ourselves. We kept ourselves separate and what I wanted to do with the piece is show that there is a lot of us that are going through this,” said Koyczan.

In To This Day, Koyczan tells the story of getting the nickname of Pork Chop and how to this day he hates pork chops. Inundated with press since the video was released, Koyczan said he even recently encountered a reporter trying to get a rise out of him by calling him the despised nickname. It just goes to show, said Koyczan, that being bullied is an experience that sticks with you for life. To This Day explores that profound impact.

Last month, Koyczan sent out a call for animators to send a description of what they have in mind for a 20-second audio excerpt of the poem.

The team from Giant Ant Studios helped thread the poem and animators from around the world into one united voice. The project has only been catching steam as Feb. 27, Pink Shirt Day, has neared. Koyczan said he hopes the video provides a starting point for schools and families to confront the problem of bullying.

Just like after his unforgettable We Are More poem read at the opening ceremonies of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, recognition from media outlets across the world have been pouring in. This makes for Koyczan’s already hectic schedule even more chaotic on top of developing an opera, screenplays, poetry and so on. On Thursday, Koyczan is speaking about To This Day amongst the world’s leading thinkers at the annual TED Conference in Long Beach, California where musician and activist Bono and Peter Gabriel will also conducting sessions. While that seems like plenty on his plate, Koyczan and the Short Story Long are currently in the CBC searchlight competition for the Kelowna region.

“It would be cool if a spoken word band won a huge band search competition I think so we are hoping people will vote for us and see if spoken word as a genre qualifies for attention,” said Koyczan.

Perhaps a side affect of what he has accomplished so far, poetry is now cool.

“I’m totally offended I thought poetry was always cool,” joked Koyczan. “I think it is great. For me poetry is always as much as they say in math the quickest method between two points is a straight line, poetry was that for me emotionally it helped me connect those dots emotionally. I think people are seeing that. As much as I write other things like plays, novels and graphic novels poetry has always been a direct route for me to release what I am feeling.”

More on Koyczan can be found on his website here. To view all the animated submissions for To This Day click here.