BOOK

To This Day


By Shane Koyczan
Walker Books, 2014

Reviewed by Janine Kitson

This written version of renowned Canadian performing poet Shane Koyczan’s poem follows the resoundingly successful YouTube animation of the work in 2013 that recorded more than 12 million views.

Koyczan presents some disturbing information on bullying from the Canadian context which is probably echoed in many other countries:

  • More than half of school students have witnessed bullying at school
  • 85 per cent of bullying happens while other kids are watching
  • One in seven kids has either been a victim of bullying or a bully
  • Bullying will usually stop within 10 seconds if someone steps in to help the victim.

  • Koyczan offers powerful insights into the cruelty of bullying, with its name-calling, physical intimidation and even violence. Side-effects can include anxiety, low self-esteem, depression, addiction and physical self-harm. The book offers a positive ending that shows these affects can be overcome — “You have to believe that they were wrong”.

    This anti-bullying poem is superbly illustrated by 30 artists from around the world, with one illustration showing a pack of hungry wolves circling a prescription bottle with a child marooned on the top. Another powerful illustration is where six fearful young people enter a school knowing that they will be bullied.

    Bullying involves the poison and malice of language that imprisons a person within a “label”. This anti-bullying poem is superbly illustrated by 30 artists from around the world, with one illustration showing a pack of hungry wolves circling a prescription bottle with a child marooned on the top. Another powerful illustration is where six fearful young people enter a school knowing that they will be bullied.

    Bullying involves the poison and malice of language that imprisons a person within a “label”.

    Extracts from the poem include:

    So we grew up believing no one
    would ever fall in love with us
    that we’d be lonely forever
    that we’d never meet someone
    To make us feel like the sun

    The poem describes a school where:

    ... the school halls were a battleground where we found ourselves outnumbered day after wretched day.

    The poem unpacks bullying’s long-term effects such as loneliness, anger and low self-esteem.

    To this day despite a LOVING HUSBAND
    She doesn’t think she’s beautiful …

    The poem explores the social hierarchy of school and how it can promote “an arsenal of names” with its power to socially exclude from one’s “group or a clique”.

    To This Day, however, affirms young people’s inner strength to move beyond these demeaning names and connect with their inner beauty and develop the resilience to reject the bully.

    In the preface, Shane Koyczan eloquently describes the power of self-expressive writing and its capacity to develop one’s imagination in order to heal real life confrontations: “Writing was a way to escape my real life, a way to cope with cruelty and indifference.

    “Self-expression showed me a world that values what I think, and feels what I feel — it makes the world my friend... The trick is to find your medium, to figure out what helps you express yourself, whether it’s art, music, dance, photography, or some other creative forms.”

    One might say this clearly articulates why the Gonski school reforms are so necessary — in order to provide these additional self-expressive programs for these vulnerable students in need.

    Available for borrowing from Federation Library.

    To This Day

    Small group/pair discussion:

    1. What bullying have you seen?
    2. Which illustration do you like the best and why?
    3. What might the stories be for those young people described in the poem?
    4. How does your school deal with bullying?
    5. If you were to hold a “Bullying Awareness Week” what activities/events might you plan?

    Suggestions for learning activities:

    1. View the YouTube video of To This Day and Shane Koyczan’s TED Talk.
    2. Make a class bullying poster with collage of anecdotes about bullying.
    3. Write a letter to Shane Koyczan expressing your feelings about the poem.
    4. In groups, act out bullying scenarios and how they are resolved.
    5. Write your own illustrated performing poem about bullying.

    Janine Kitson is on long service leave.