The final version is here.
It has morphed and evolved in these days leading up to NotN, and although still very familiar to those who read the draft(s), I believe my core idea has become more polished. If you agree, or disagree, let me know in the comments!
Post NotN edit: If you have any feedback for the performance on the night of (I know my beard fell off), it’d be awesome to hear it!
It’s me again
I miss talking to you
I was asked by the Vancouver Opera to write a show for them
They asked me all sorts of questions
Shane could you tell us about your experience with bullying?
Shane how did you get over it?
Shane what do you want to say to all the kids who are being bullied right now?
Those are questions I’ve been asking all my life
I said “my experience as a victim was being lost in a desert, but don’t mistake me for a traveler –
the how’s and why’s of my journey have always escaped me”
I said “I didn’t get over it so much as I endured the heat-
I turned my burns into words that were juicy enough to satisfy my thirst.
My sunspotted vision became a kaleidoscope through which the sounds seemed to slot into place-
I became a poet”
I said “there are youths that treat each breakfast before school like their last sip of water”
What I would tell them is
Remember how quickly a palm turns into a fist
Finger by finger like clockwork
All you can do is do your time
But both hands are stuck on the 11th hour
your new day is an eternity away
Its not fair
Its not reasonable
It shouldn’t be you but it is
I’m a little lost
And I know that
A poet without words is a kid without salvation
So I am looking for your wisdom
There are deserts full of kids asking God why He chose them.
And they are still waiting
For their clock to run out.
If you made it this far, you’re pretty great! Thanks for reading.
Stickboy, created and performed by the Vancouver Opera Company, is the work of visionaries. It combines animation with set design; a sharp, modern and powerful score; and a libretto that, more often than not, aims to emotionally suckerpunch the audience. Stickboy follows the true story of a boy, raised by his grandmother, who is brutally bullied at school. This catalyses the boy into a bully himself, and only after an intensely traumatizing period of self harm does he gain the insight that forces him to change his ways.
What Stickboy doesn’t illustrate, however, is that the boy went on to begin a life of artistry. Weaving words into tapestries to both entertain and educate, the boy gained international acclaim when he performed his spoken word poetry at the 2010 Winter Olympics Opening Ceremonies. That opportunity catapulted him into a performance career that has garnered admiration worldwide.
That boy’s name is Shane Koyczan.
I know, rockin’ neck beard right? I’m a little worried as to how I’m going to pull it off – because I am going to be becoming Mr. Koyczan for the Eminent Person Project in 2014!
I have been looking forward to the Eminent Project ever since last year’s ended. I was planning to a do a woman, you see – expressly for the purpose of breaking the frustrating dynamic of ‘no boys in TALONS have ever done a female Eminent Person.’ However, as soon as I realized I could do Koyczan, those lofty dreams fell out the window.
Shane Koyczan was the voice that drew me into slam poetry. I can remember long nights, burning the midnight oil, listening to scratchy Youtube recording’s of his work. I would be amazed at the way he wielded words like a scalpel with which to cut apart the listener’s preconceptions of tragedy. Never, had I thought that I would one day be trying to emulate that same art form.
A year or so after I discovered listening to poetry, I discovered writing slam poetry. Since then, it has been a roller coaster of performances, rapid growth and an expanding acceptance of what ‘art’ is. At my school, I am trying to give back that experience of poetry to my peers. It seems only fitting, that my Eminent should reflect the beginnings of this journey.
Koyczan was born in Yellowknife, 1976, but grew up in Penticton, British Columbia; his family moved there due to the awful bullying at his school. Little could they expect that the cycle would continue in Penticton, only this time with a cruel twist – Koyczan became the instigator that he had hated so very much in Yellowknife. In his grade 12 year, Koyczan began cutting, which he says was “because of the immense hatred I held for myself. I suffocated in it. Cutting was, it seemed to me, letting light into my body.”
In 1993, Koyczan was rushed to the hospital due to critical blood loss. The near death experience was the turning point in his life. This is where Koyczan left behind much of his anger, and began writing.
One of the fantastic things about Koyczan’s work is that he writes strictly about his own experiences. He disguises them in flowing, rythmic verse; and it makes every single one of his poems so much more poignant. He has been praised by critics for speaking to the issue “as if he had lived them,” which in turn brings about responses from his fans, explaining that he has, in fact, went through the things he writes about. His poetry is very real.
In 2005, Koyczan published his first book, which was selected by The Globe and Mail and The Guardian for their best book of the year lists. Following up that success, he performed the poem We are More at the 2010 Winter Olympics Opening Ceremonies, garnering him international acclaim. He is a rising star of the global sphere.
Koyczan’s eminence comes from his excellent poetry. His excellent poetry, in turn, is given a unique, sharp viewpoint due to his childhood. I will be studying his art, his story, and perhaps most importantly of all – his future.
In 2013, he created a video called To This Day with the animation company Giant Ant. To This Day is arguably his greatest success, going viral on Youtube with over 13.4 million views. It speaks to the bullies, the victims, the bystanders, and gives all of them hope for the future. The momentum this gave him allowed him to write and produce an Opera, known as Stickboy (refer to the beginning of the post).
Shane Koyczan has the eye of the world on him, and he seems to only be going bigger with each accomplishment.
“May the depth of your despair remain only in the shallow end.” – Shane Koyczan
I am honoured beyond all doubt to have spent the last two months preparing for Hullabaloo 2014. Emma Field, Lyle Hendriks, and I, Jamie Fajber, took to the stage intending to pour out all the many, many hours that we have spent writing, practicing and refining our poetry. It is to my great joy that I can say that the Gleneagle team came home with 2nd place in BC!
In every single aspect, credit here goes to our mentor Jacob Gebrewold. It’s hard to take what he has given us and put it into words. He took Emma and I, two novice grade 9 poets who showed maybe a little bit of potential, and turned us into silver medallists in TWO MONTHS. Even more impressive is Lyle, who came so far in just a few weeks, when he had to step up to fill in the gap on our team.
Jacob is miraculous. Without a doubt I can say that I have never met a better role model for all things life than Jacob Gebrewold.
In these recent months, my heart has been expanded to fit new quantities of love for so many people that I have met. Hullabaloo was an incredible experience in every way I could describe it.
Rehabilitation to school has been tough. Sometimes, life after something so perfectly wondrous seems pretty unglamorous.
However, there are things that can help you begin to appreciate it all again.
2) Being excessively intent on school.
3) Sleep loads.
I fully intend to keep on writing and performing poetry. This has blown up more than I could have ever dreamed of, and I want to do nothing more than perform and workshop in classes at Gleneagle, maybe help spread the art form.
On the note of In-Depth night itself – I am going to be performing some pieces of course! I don’t actually need a learning centre. Depending on the time we are allotted, Emma, Lyle and I may or may not conglomerate our time so we can do some team pieces as well as some individual ones; however, if we only get three minutes we will probably stick to individual pieces to showcase everyone.
I will be posting a new poem very soon as well – its in it’s first form but I’d love to get some feedback!
Poetry can be defined in many ways: self expression through words, or using the figurative to bring light to the literal.
I choose to define it differently. Poetry, to me, is the crossroads between what is real and what is abstract. Bending reality into twisted words that can wrap up the listener and deposit them in a mirrored maze… it is a thing of beauty.
Poetry can be used to disguise and mutate simple truths to have greater impact on others; whats fascinating about poetry is that it works on yourself too.
Recently late nights have become one of the constants in my life. Poetry is the tool I use to forget that: yes, next week is going to be hard, and pretend that: yes, next week is going to be what I want to do. Fake it until you become it – a powerful mantra indeed.
When do lies you tell yourself become your truths? I hope it happens quickly. Hmmm. Maybe poetry is the answer to transmuting my mistakes to answers… certainly, poetry has been the answer to many things in my life it feels.
Poetry has become a release – when my emotions run fast like raging currents, poetry is the waterfall that drops them into a tranquil pool.
Poetry has become an escape – when tragedy strikes, it is my crutch. These past few days, I have needed that crutch a little more than usual.
Poetry has become the reward – when the work piles up hard in a week and I find myself bouncing between all the cogs of my machine; poetry is the emergency lever that stops the cogs spinning for a moment so I can just reset.
Funny, how poetry has so quickly become something I sacrifice for.
Tonight, the midnight oil burns bright. The stereotypical poet inside me yearns for me to stay up late, late into the twilight hours so as to gain more writing inspiration… the boy/man who wants to keep the promises I made to myself keeps saying “stay up, finish your commitments…” but Jamie wants to sleep.
Hmm. My muse says this is interesting writing material.
That would be an interesting piece, right? Sleeping? Does it really matter? Or should I sacrifice it to the teenage gods of procrastination and overestimation of self-capabilities…
Does this even make sense?
Is this even an In-Depth post?
But it could be defined as poetry!
10/10. I see it in my dreams.
Goodnight to anyone reading this as late at night as I wrote it. And please, please, please, keep on sleeping.
Three weeks today, Emma, Lyle and I, will be taking to the stage in Vancouver for the Youth Provincial Poetry Slam, Hullabaloo!
This is crunch time: where everyone is trying to write new poetry; workshop the delivery of the poetry; and then obsess about it incessantly. The team has been meeting up with Jacob (our mentor) twice weekly for the past few weeks, and as we get closer to Hullabaloo that frequency may even increase further.
Mentoring sessions with Jacob are a fascinating thing; it’d be interesting to record a session and then watch it later for reflective purposes. We discuss poetry first and foremost, but somehow all sorts of thing get jumbled in – business, philosophy, teaching, interpersonal skills, to name a few – Jacob passes on a lot of knowledge and wisdom in a very short amount of time. He also is completely shameless (in the best way). On the Sunday before school started back up, we met up at the Starbucks near Chapters at 7:30 in the morning. Upon Emma, Lyle and I professing we were still a little sleepy, he brought us out to the empty parking lot, and proceeded to force us all to run suicides.
Not my preferred morning wake-up call, but it was definitely effective.
Speaking of waking up: I would like to share something really wonderful with the world. It is a phrase, coined by Ms. Britta B (check her out on Twitter!), that you say every morning.
“My, my, my… what a day to be alive.”
The beautiful thing about this phrase is that you say it as angry as you feel, or as tranquil as you feel…
“MY MY MY WHAT A DAY TO BE ALIVEEEEEEEEE!”
Or as happy as you feel.
Now this concludes the reflection portion of this post… however if you stick around for a little while longer, I would love it if you wanted to offer any sort of feedback on a poem that I have written. It is titled “Rainbows and Forgiveness” and it explores the idea that parents need not be together, but for the sake of the child, reconciliation is important.
I recommend you reading out loud, but the choice is 100% yours. Again, any feedback is appreciated.
Rainbows and Forgiveness
I am the most illustrious dichotomy there has ever been
a never ending bending phenomenon
my mom and dad named me roy
roy means red in gaelic
but for me roy has always stood for red orange and yellow
I am the perennial hello to faces pressed against rain streaked windows
made from two parents that individually represent the greeting to a new day
and the beauty of washing away and starting anew
since birth I have been made up of colours
and both of you, my progenitors from separate planets
need to see my light
because I know you can’t be near each other anymore
but I am not complete when you are driven apart
of the colours I am made of
blue is what I see in you dad
despite taking up two thirds of planet earth
you are smooth cool calm
simultaneously synchronized disparity and perfect tranquillity you have the capability
to be quiet
as an empty home or so loud it
feels I’m burning up at the edges
but you put me out before I catch aflame
I see myself in you easier than I see myself in a mirror
and so I can see you are scared: you hide mom away from me like she’ll shine the light on all your insecurities
and I’ll give away my love for you
I don’t believe in impossibilities but i do believe in exceptions
I am the immaculate conception between two primal forces
you gotta trust me when I say that if you make a leap of faith here I’ll catch you
when you are without mom you are always falling its hard to be brave when you’re always falling
rain is funny that way
but when you are with mom you are lighter than air
you fly upward
and maybe for a moment you can have a silent staring contest
you always break first
of the colours I am made of
you are yellow rays burnt red bright fire dire wrath
larger than life
you have never met me but your influence continues to shape me
everything turns around you
and despite the light that blinds you
you dare to give life a chance over and over again after all the mistakes
so please give dad a chance even after all the mistakes
mankind have an expression “to err is human, but to forgive is divine”
and as the greatest celestial being I know I have to assume that you will follow your own nature
of the colours I am made of
you mom and you dad represent pieces of me
fragmented possibilities of what i could be
mom yellow and red
Your mere reconciliation brings new colour
into everything I am and everyone I touch
orange green indigo violet
of the colours I am made of
you represent the separate parts that are less than half of what was meant to be my destiny
I don’t ask for you to be together
only to put this beneath us
so we can go up, somewhere over the rainbow that I am
and see the joy that I can bring
when a family can overcome the tragedy of completely separate natures
at least, every once in a little while
you named me Roy G Biv
in French, it means regal
and so to live up to my name I promise
I do not blame anything upon you
I have an irrepayable debt to you, my parents
that will never be fulfilled
but… if I was born to be the most illustrious dichotomy
an apology, or a moment of generosity,
or a spoken-out loud affirmation that yes there was animosity but paradoxically
the sun chilled out
or the rain dried up any leftover tears
I the rainbow
would be the most proud son of the sun, there has ever been
(Thanks to Mr. Albright for giving an interesting idea about taking turns in a poem – it really helped this piece!)
Jacob Gebrewold is an excellent human being. I can feel it. Emma and I recently had our second meeting with him at the Starbucks adjacent to Chapters, and I was struck by his charisma, as well as the effort and planning that he is putting into our relationship. What I first thought was going to be just another writing session has turned out to be seminars on life, networking, and relationships; and that is not even getting into the poetry side of things!
On an unrelated note: clear communication is a beautiful thing, so all questions from here out will be clearly marked.
1) What went particularly well during your mentoring sessions?
The two mentoring sessions Jacob has facilitated thus far have been incredibly successful, because of his structured lesson plan that he brings to the table every single time- he knows what he’s doing. He assigns us homework (reading leadership literature & organizing poetry slams at Gleneagle & Workshopping w/ Emma), and we are slowly working our way through our curriculum- yes he has a curriculum- and everything is just dandy.
Jacob is very, very good at what he does. I didn’t really realize at first how lucky Emma and I to have this opportunity… Jacob is the Founder and Captain of the Port Moody Secondary Poetry Team; which won Hullabaloo in it’s first ever year, mind you. He won the Vancouver Youth Grand Slam, and to top it off he has gone on international tours as an activist poet.
On to question #2.
2) Were you candid and open in your communication with each other? Explain.
We were incredibly open and candid with each other from the very start. For example, the first exercise he had us do was write down a pros/cons list of who we are as people. This was difficult and draining, but it made us comfortable with each other pretty darned fast.
3) What did you do to hold yourselves accountable for the learning?
For the first time ever, I am using a planner. This is not completely due to Jacob, TALONS has helped considerably, but I think there is a correlation, at least.
In my introductory post I briefly touched on the fact that after Emma and I had presented our poems at the Poetry Slam downtown, an older youth approached us and asked us a few questions.
“You guys were fantastic! You must be veterans at this, right?”
“Umm… nope. This is our first time.”
“No way! How old are you guys?”
“We are in grade 9…?”
“WHAAAAAT! That’s adorable! Ohmygoodnessgracious that is so awesome! You guys are going to go far… how would you guys like to workshop with me?” This is where Emma and I realized exactly what was actually happening. And so…
“Well, actually… blah blah blah… so the point is for our school project we are looking for a mento-”
“Sounds great! When can you guys meet up?”
And that is how we met Jacob.
So far, he seems really, really great. We’ve had one workshop with him so far, and it was incredible. He began by speaking about how eventually, workshops with him will leave poetry behind and just start to be about life… he actually founded the Port Moody Secondary Slam Poetry Team, and he gave us tips on how to start a club at Gleneagle (next year is coming soon!). After charming the librarians at the Coquitlam Public Library into giving us a room, he began by opening up John C. Maxwell’s 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.
“This book is my bible. My testament. It will help you with your poetry, creating a club, and it will make your life indescribably better. When we meet again in two weeks, you guys must have a copy of this. You can either get a copy from the library or, I recommend, buy it. If you have not gotten a copy, our next workshop will be very short. Do you understand?”
Although this may sound harsh, I was actually surprisingly happy to hear it. It showed how serious he was and how serious he expected us to be about the whole shebang.
After putting his book away, he made us create lists of our strengths & weaknesses with regards to poetry. Upon reading them:
“Oh YES. You guys are just like me when I first started out. If I put you two together and made you black, you’d be me.”
He has a curriculum for poetry, which has four pillars, and despite only getting a taste at that first session I am excited to learn the rest. So far this whole poetry experience has been amazingly surreal; he is a wonderful mentor, everything I could have asked for, and his teachings are going to improve both Emma’s and my poetry by leaps and bounds.
He is on the right: Jacob Grebewold w/ Ralph Aguila – Beautiful Homeland
Finally… he spoke to us about the provincial competition. Emma and I have formed a team! Gleneagle, for the first time ever, is going to be represented at Hullabaloo… so if you are reading this and you know someone at Gleneagle who really wants to do Slam Poetry maybe put them in touch with Emma or myself?
The poetry train is speeding up… here we go!
This is Emma and I’s performances from our first ever Poetry Slam! Emma came in 1st place and I 4th. Check ’em out, and please post a comment with feedback/things you liked!
Time, Movement of – Jamie Fajber
Construction Paper – Emma Field
Family Thing – Jamie Fajber
Yellow – Emma Field
If you did watch those… thanks!
Lets launch straight in:
Bullying, looked at from an outside persective, may not always seem as detrimental to one’s health as it truly is. Yes, in the extreme cases (e.g. suicide, school shootings, etc.) it is readily apparent how harmful bullying is to the victim’s mental and physical health, however what can be easy to overlook is that bullying creates mental and physical damage no matter how small. Something as insignificant as the daily snide comment from the kid with the locker across from you about can, over time, be incredibly harmful.This is because bullying warps self-perception. Victims are often those who present or perceive themselves as weak, and bullies prey on those insecurities. This spawns more and more destruction of self-esteem and confidence in the victims, which again adds more to the fire. It is a viscous, viscous cycle, and one that is very difficult to break out of. But there are ways you can stop it. Don’t be a bystander. This is often said but often ignored. It is hard to build up the strength to approach a… volatile situation, but more often than not the victim just needs to know that there is someone that will stand up for them, and then hopefully they will be able to stand up for themselves. That is the ultimate goal.
Eating healthy is an incredibly important aspect of living a, well, healthy life. Nutritious food is the foundation of a strong body, and as such one must never underestimate the wellness that fruits and veggies and other nutritious alternatives will bring you. Overall, eating healthy is something that you always should seek to be aware of. In our day and age, however, our culture promotes obsession with eating; healthily and unhealthily. We are bombarded with advertisements and messages that promote trash food, but paradoxically we are also constantly force fed the idea that health = fitness and eating tiny portions and consuming only soy-bran-raisin muffins. Living healthily is more than eating healthily, and never ever is it healthy to rate what food you eat over what life you live.
If eating healthy is the foundation of a healthy body, then forming healthy relationships is the foundation of a healthy mind. The people that we choose to surround ourselves with have a lot of influence on us, so we want to be with those who build us up, not those who tear us down. Exposure to unending negativity is very harmful to your mind, and so choose your friends, mentors, significant others, or rivals, wisely. If you feel like you are in an unhealthy relationship, get out of it. If the relationship is one-sided in commitment or power; if the relationship is manipulative; if the relationship at any point feels unsafe or detrimental to your physical or mental health, you are totally in the clear to end it. Just as you should aim to feed yourself good food, feed yourself good people.
Ya know, metaphorically.
Drugs & Alcohol:
My personal exposure to drugs and/or alcohol is limited, as I have lived a fairly sheltered life with regards to those two subjects. Nonetheless, here we go.
The media is constantly playing images of people who, after drinking, become the life of the party; happiness and respect from others is miraculously in their grasp after downing a few pints. It is easy to never learn, or perhaps, understand the dangers that alcohol, and to a further extent, drugs, present to your well-being if misused. The belief that these two substances are the path to joy is unfortunately very limited. Drugs and Alcohol can create a temporary boost of your spirits, however, if used in excess or repetitively, can have extremely negative effects on your mental and physical health, and also irreparably damage your social standing and relationships. Because both of these substances have highly addictive qualities, be conscious and aware of your intake to avoid falling into a dangerous pattern. The school system strives to educate it’s students on the dangers of drugs and alcohol, but presented with a treacherous situation, it is up to the individual at hand to make the choice; and the only way to make a wisely informed decision is to simply remain aware of the consequences of your actions.
STI’s are something that is commonly misunderstood. It is a topic that people laugh about instead of taking seriously; a common misconception is that STI’s such HIV and AIDS are contained to Third World Countries, but this is a fallacy. STI’s are present here in North America, and all over the world. It is something that everyone should be aware of. Prevention methods involve condoms, as well as regularly checking in with your Urologist or Obstetrician. Sex is a romanticized concept in our modern society, but with everything in life, to be safe and healthy you must first become aware of the consequences.
Becoming a “No” Man instead of a “Yes” Man.
My Goal: Fruits & Veggies!
Me and Emma went downtown to perform Slam Poetry! It felt super edgy.
The smoke from the cafe fills my senses. The music that keeps playing seems to be immeasurably loud – am I the only one that thinks so? Maybe I am just nervous; after all, in ten minutes or less I will be up on this stage in front of me, presenting a poem that I have poured my heart and soul into, for a bunch of strangers that may or may not be incredibly judgemental.
But as the MC takes the mike and introduces the Youth Poetry Slam, much of my anxiety fades away. The crowd is as far away from judgemental as any crowd can be or has ever been, and the poets that go up are warmly received. When my name is called… I am ready to go.
I am still freaked out enough that for most of poem, I keep my eye’s tightly shut.
However, the roar of the applause after I am finished forces me to daringly glance through my closed eyelids, and I walk back to my seat in a sort of happy daze.
I get my score, and I advance to the second round, where I placed fourth out of the ten performers. Afterwards, some of the other poets came over to congratulate me, and many were incredibly surprised to find out I was 14.
I found a mentor, in the form of Jacob Grenebwold, an experienced spoken word performer and a major component in the Youth Slam organization. I will write more about him later… but he seems pretty rad, so far.
I was introduced to some really outstanding poets, technically qualified for the National Youth Spoken Word Team (although as I joined late in the season, this is incredibly unlikely), and had a blast.
It was just an incredibly successful night. It felt surreal. It was surreal. It seems as though a whole new avenue of possibilities has just opened up, and I can see myself actually doing something with poetry for my life.
A huge, HUGE shout-out to my poetry partner-in-crime, Emma, who not only went with me to perform, but also placed FIRST PLACE in the Youth Slam, which is an incredible achievement especially as this was our first time performing and we were the youngest poets there. If this is where we start, I am so excited to dream about where we could finish.
Now, I am writing this rather late at night as I simply cannot get it out of my head, so the Youtube Videos with Emma’s and my performances will be linked as soon as they come out. Maybe tomorrow, maybe in a few days… we will see!