October 10, 2014

Poetry Friday/TURNING PAGES: TO THIS DAY by Shane Koyczan

because there's something in side you
that made you keep trying
despite everyone who told you to quit
you build a cast around your
broken heart
and signed it yourself
          you signed it

we are graduating members from the class of
not the faded echoes of voices crying out
names will never hurt me
      of course
         they did

~ Shane Koyczan, "To This Day"

This past Monday, October 6, was World Bullying Prevention Day. If you didn't know that, that's okay - it's less known than National Pink Shirt Day in February, or STAND UP Day in November, or other anti-bullying campaigns in various schools and in various states across the country, and around the world. Monday was just another tiny stone in the edifice that bravehearts are constructing against bullying and bullies in our schools and in our society.

The book I'm sharing with you today is probably of a poem you've already heard - this spoken word performance got something like 1.4 billion hits on Youtube by its second day up in 2013. After the author performed during a TED talk - which is wrenching and gorgeous - the poem's popularity soared further.

So, you've probably heard this before. But, since July of this past summer, it's in book form, which means it's now Cybils-eligible (woot) and it's also time to share it again. Take a few minutes, and listen to his spoken word performance in its entirety, and see the work of the eighty animators with Giant Ant Studios who helped him make his TED talk video possible.

I found this poem powerfully compelling for many reasons, but especially because of the repeated phrase, "To this day." To this day, I see the faces and know the names of my tormentors, to this day, I still don't know quite what the heck happened between fifth grade and ninth - and onward - to bring my personal social real estate price to rock bottom, and raise the personal values of some of the rest of my classmates so high... To this day, I carry an abscess, a wound I keep thinking is healed, but which is so full of poison that the slightest nudge flares it into hot pain again, and the bitterness roils under the surface. To this day, I, and many others, weep with rage at remembering parts of being in junior high and high school. To. This. Day.

Conclusion: The thirty international illustrators who designed and depicted each page all drew from a place inside themselves that is common to the human condition. We've all experienced the pain, either by unwitting unkindness or deliberate cruelty, of being spotlighted for how well we don't blend with the herd. This artwork highlights the already gut-wrenching words of the poet Shane's memories of being bullied as a fat, awkward child and dips them into the blood and bones of our own experiences and paints them on the page. Despite tragedy, loss, and the lingering echoes of hatefulness, this intensely passionate book is about courage, hope, and beauty - the elements which make all of us who we are as survivors. Whether you were bullied or one of the bullies, this book speaks about hope - and the realization that no matter who we are, we are who we think, and not what anyone else says.

♦♦♦♦ ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦ ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦ ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦ ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦ ♦♦♦♦

but our lives will only ever
continue to be
a balancing act
that has less to do with pain
and more to do with

~ Shane Koyczan, "To This Day"

I received my copy of this gorgeous and heartfelt book courtesy of Annick Press. You can find TO THIS DAY by Shane Koyczan at an online e-tailer, or at a real life, independent bookstore near you!

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect. Pop over for more great poetry!

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