Shane Koyczan in 2013 put up a spoken word poem titled To This Day on Youtube that was animated by over 40 individuals drawing attention to the rampant bullying in schools and how it has long lasting effects on its victims. The short 7 minute video tells the story of three individuals who suffered from bullying in school, Koyczan and two others.
Koyczan’s story starts out the video, talking about how he broke his arm in school climbing a tree. The administrators all believed it was his grandma assaulting him, when they talked to him about his grandma, he mixed the words karate chop and pork chop. When they bothered to ask him what had happened, they more clearly understood what happened, but the word jumble got around the school, all the kids now calling him porkchop for his stature.
The second story is of a lady with a birth mark on her face, how the kids would call her ugly and threw things at her in the classrooms and hallways, how she still has low self esteem and can’t consider herself beautiful.
The last story is of man in a broken home, having to deal with therapy, depression, suicide because other students would tell him things like, ‘get over it’. Even now, off of drugs, still feeling the painful effects of depression and anxiety.
For the critique, I looked at Story, Presentation, and Organization.
Story. Stories about bullying and its effects always hit home with me in a very personal way. I was bullied all through school, and I’ve seen a lot of my peers be bullied as well, and I can tell you first hand how bad it can be when you’re growing up. You have such low self esteem and expectations for yourself, it causes a lot of young folks to develop signs of depression and anxiety.
The three stories were presented in a timely fashion, were clear, and easy to follow. They kept my attention, giving enough details that you felt like you still didn’t know the whole story, but that you weren’t supposed to. It was emotional to listen to, a very visceral kind of experience that spoken poems can give you. You saw the character transformation, the transition from child to adult was clear and apparent. It was powerful.
Presentation. The presentation was phenomenal. Koyczan’s delivery of his poem had a lot of careful pacing and intensity. The stories always began with a softer tone, keeping on beat, and then as he arrived at the more meaningful pieces, he got louder, accentuating the beats and turns as the poem went on. He spoke very clearly, enunciated words very well. It was rhythmic, and had a very deliberate tone and presentation. The performance had the exact effect I believe it was created to.
Organization. This could also fall under presentation, but each part of the story was animated by someone new, capturing an entirely different mood for the story, adding different aesthetics. As the stories changed, a few times within each minute, the artists had varying interpretations of what the story was doing and how it could be displayed and shown off. Some of the pieces were scarier, some more soft. Some were 2d, some 3d, some followed a more animated word style. All of the collaboration brought the story together, in both a visual way, and in a more poetic way as well. The collaboration was also meant to show that this is a real problem, that affects so many individuals that so many individuals helped on the project.
Overall, this is a fantastically made video and story. It tells the stories, and the emotions behind them in a relatively compact way, timing in at about seven minutes. It also drew my attention to more of his spoken word poems, but none are quite as powerful as this one. The only suggestion I have for it was perhaps adding more word imagery for the listener to follow along with, to highlight certain words, but as it is, it is very impressive. I urge you to watch the video, especially if you are an educator because the metaphors become real.