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FTW Friday: Shane Koyczan and Instructions for a Bad Day

Simon Treanor

“There will be bad days.”

That’s the start of this inspirational poem by Canadian spoken word artist Shane Koyczan.   The poem, appropriately called “Instructions for a Bad Day” offers some helpful advice on how to deal with those days when everything just won’t go right.  Now hopefully you’re not having a bad day, especially seeing as its Friday. However, if the thought of the looming weekend still isn’t enough to get you through, then give this poem, “Instructions for a Bad Day” a good listen, and I guarantee that you will start to feel better in no time.

The poem is set to a montage of different images by Jon Goodgion and from “Life in a Day” by Kevin Macdonald, beautifully accompanying  Koyczan’s fiery and passionate delivery. His simple language conveys urgency, and a clear, relatable message which we can all understand, even if the bad days he’s describing aren’t our bad days.

The video has been around for a little while now (nearly a year) but was recently picked up again by some online sites such as the Huffington Post. Needless to say the whole experience is very moving, and is a wonderful demonstration of the power of the spoken word, a mastery of which Shane Koyczan has repeatedly demonstrated.

His first published work Visiting Hours was chosen by the Guardian and the Globe and Mail as part of their best books of 2005, and “We are more,” one of the poems in that collection, was performed by Koyczan for the 2010 Winter Olympics. He then started to focus on addressing bullying within schools and wrote Stickboy, a novel in verse, which looks at the life of a bullied child, and ultimately how he chooses to become a bully himself.

However what Shane is probably most famous for is his “To this day” poem (which is now an App), a harrowing example of different types of bullying, and the long term effects simple things like name-calling can have. The animated version of the poem can be found on YouTube, with over 12 million hits, and the app is still being used by teachers and parents to help deal with bullying.

Koyczan  started a Kickstarter project on Monday to help fund his third book of poetry A Bruise on Light, with the aim of reaching $15,000. Five days later the campaign has received nearly $40,000, and still has another 26 days to go. As enticements, Koyczan offers both “undying gratitude” (for pledging $2) and  his own version of Cyrano, in which he’ll hide in the bushes and feedsyou romantic lines to help you ensnare your love ($8,000, so far unclaimed).

I hope you’re having a good day, but when those bad days do show up, give “Instructions for a Bad Day” another listen. Or, as Koyczan tells us, “Be calm, / loosen your grip opening each palm slowly now, / let go.”

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