Read: Shane Koyczan, ‘We Are More’

we are an experiment going right for a change / with influences that range from a to zed

Earlier today I blogged about my love for the Opening Ceremonies of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games but I want to take this opportunity to share one other bit of magic from those ceremonies with all y’all. Slam Poet Shane Koyczan read aloud a poem he wrote entitled We Are More and I was so impressed by his words that I thought they are worth another read. The New York Times even took note of his powerful, stirring and very fitting performance

The ceremony was … thoughtful and stirring. It was authentically and unabashedly Canadian. The poet Shane Koyczan pointed out that his was a country not afraid to use the words “please and thank you.” You could add that it’s a country unafraid to put a poet up there on the stage in the first place.

I echo the chorus that believes the Opening Ceremonies of the Vancouver Winter Olympic Games were distinctly Canadian … and that is what makes it so special, so truly amazing! I mean, how wonderful was it that a poet was chosen to participate in such a larger-than-life SPORTING event celebration? I was very impressed, y’all. After the jump, read the full transcript of Koyczan‘s We Are More poem as read during the Opening Ceremonies of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games last night …

When defining Canada

you might list some statistics

you might mention our tallest building

or biggest lake

you might shake a tree in the fall

and call a red leaf Canada

you might rattle off some celebrities

might mention Buffy Sainte-Marie

might even mention the fact that we’ve got a few

Barenaked Ladies

or that we made these crazy things

like zippers

electric cars

and washing machines

when defining Canada

it seems the world’s anthem has been

” been there done that”

and maybe that’s where we used to be at

it’s true

we’ve done and we’ve been

we’ve seen

all the great themes get swallowed up by the machine

and turned into theme parks

but when defining Canada

don’t forget to mention that we have set sparks

we are not just fishing stories

about the one that got away

we do more than sit around and say “eh?”

and yes

we are the home of the Rocket and the Great One

who inspired little number nines

and little number ninety-nines

but we’re more than just hockey and fishing lines

off of the rocky coast of the Maritimes

and some say what defines us

is something as simple as please and thank you

and as for you’re welcome

well we say that too

but we are more

than genteel or civilized

we are an idea in the process

of being realized

we are young

we are cultures strung together

then woven into a tapestry

and the design

is what makes us more

than the sum total of our history

we are an experiment going right for a change

with influences that range from a to zed

and yes we say zed instead of zee

we are the colours of Chinatown and the coffee of Little Italy

we dream so big that there are those

who would call our ambition an industry

because we are more than sticky maple syrup and clean snow

we do more than grow wheat and brew beer

we are vineyards of good year after good year

we reforest what we clear

because we believe in generations beyond our own

knowing now that so many of us

have grown past what used to be

we can stand here today

filled with all the hope people have

when they say things like “someday”

someday we’ll be great

someday we’ll be this

or that

someday we’ll be at a point

when someday was yesterday

and all of our aspirations will pay the way

for those who on that day

look towards tomorrow

and still they say someday

we will reach the goals we set

and we will get interest on our inspiration

because we are more than a nation of whale watchers and lumberjacks

more than backpacks and hiking trails

we are hammers and nails building bridges

towards those who are willing to walk across

we are the lost-and-found for all those who might find themselves at a loss

we are not the see-through gloss or glamour

of those who clamour for the failings of others

we are fathers brothers sisters and mothers

uncles and nephews aunts and nieces

we are cousins

we are found missing puzzle pieces

we are families with room at the table for newcomers

we are more than summers and winters

more than on and off seasons

we are the reasons people have for wanting to stay

because we are more than what we say or do

we live to get past what we go through

and learn who we are

we are students

students who study the studiousness of studying

so we know what as well as why

we don’t have all the answers

but we try

and the effort is what makes us more

we don’t all know what it is in life we’re looking for

so keep exploring

go far and wide

or go inside but go deep

go deep

as if James Cameron was filming a sequel to The Abyss

and suddenly there was this location scout

trying to figure some way out

to get inside you

because you’ve been through hell and high water

and you went deep

keep exploring

because we are more

than a laundry list of things to do and places to see

we are more than hills to ski

or countryside ponds to skate

we are the abandoned hesitation of all those who can’t wait

we are first-rate greasy-spoon diners and healthy-living cafes

a country that is all the ways you choose to live

a land that can give you variety

because we are choices

we are millions upon millions of voices shouting

” keep exploring… we are more”

we are the surprise the world has in store for you

it’s true

Canada is the “what” in “what’s new?”

so don’t say “been there done that”

unless you’ve sat on the sidewalk

while chalk artists draw still lifes

on the concrete of a kid in the street

beatboxing to Neil Young for fun

don’t say you’ve been there done that

unless you’ve been here doing it

let this country be your first-aid kit

for all the times you get sick of the same old same old

let us be the story told to your friends

and when that story ends

leave chapters for the next time you’ll come back

next time pack for all the things

you didn’t pack for the first time

but don’t let your luggage define your travels

each life unravels differently

and experiences are what make up

the colours of our tapestry

we are the true north

strong and free

and what’s more

is that we didn’t just say it

we made it be.

Well spoken, Mr. Koyczan. Very well spoken, indeed. Koyczan‘s poem was one of the high points of the Opening Ceremonies for me … what were some of YOU fave moments last night?

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  1. BriMarie

    Thanks for this Trent! Love that it is noteworthy to you too :)

  2. jessica

    Shane is a very talented Vancouver spoken word poet and it warms my heart that he is finally getting recognition for his talent. Another person to keep on your radar is Dan Mangan – I’ve seen them perform together and together they are more than moving.
    see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jHZ4xoNvcY8

  3. danielle

    this was the portion of the opening ceremonies that made me the most proud to be canadian.
    truly inspirational :)

  4. Manda

    It was a great poem

  5. nicole

    this was my favorite part of the openings. he did a great job.
    “and yes we say zed instead of zee” <– that was the best line lol

  6. jessica

    PS: I know Tegan and Sara are on tour b/c I’m seeing them tonight but I they’re just as Canadian as Bryan Adams, Sarah McLachlan, etc.

  7. molly

    this so perfectly captures Canada. im glad that someone else teared up at this too!

  8. Crap, now I’m trying to type thru wet eyes. Love you neighbour!

  9. Davidsask

    Great work, but I have never said ZED instead of Z, so not sure what part of Canada that is from is not the prairies!

    On a separate note from many bloggers I was shocked they liked the Prairie piece a lot. I and many of my friends were like we represent the WIND? A peter pan boy going through the prairie plains, does that make us the GAYEST provinces? What do you think of that analogy?

  10. syslak

    @Davidsask – that is sad that you say zee. You probably don’t say bunnyhug either. You must be from the part of the province that is called North Dakota. Saying zed is wicked awesome.

  11. @Davidsask – I actually liked it because I am a prairie-fairy by origin, so I felt right at home watching that part of the ceremony :) I also liked it because I am related to W.O. Mitchell so my heart swelled upon discovering a passage from ‘Who Has Seen The Wind’ was used for that segment. But yes, I agree… a “light-loafered” boy with an earring was a fairly gay, if not stereotypically gay, way to rep the prairies. Weird thing is, though, I’ve since heard that was actually a GIRL, not a boy!

    On another prairie note, I have always said ‘zed’, too.

  12. Madsme

    Trent! I was just looking for the whole set of lyrics, so thanks for posting them. I love the bits he cut out as well…you can hear the rhythm even when you just say them out-loud to yourself. His performance was amazing, and so typically Canadian. Woot indeed!

  13. Janet_B_Austin

    You know…he was fantastic and talented and a word-master, and all of those great things that happen when someone truly speaks from their heart! Talk about something that transcends many, many nations. Loved it!

  14. dani

    I was lucky enough to watch Shane perform at the school I teach at on Vancouver Island and he was amazing. Here is a link to watch Shane actually perform his poem, commissioned by Canadian Tourism. Worth the watch!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BQbQGn_rqTw

  15. Holly

    @Davidsask – You’ve never heard of saying zed? That’s what being Canadian is all about!! lol
    One thing I didn’t like was that they had to put the french translation of everything before the english…bilingualism is basically dead everywhere but Quebec and yet, there it is!
    I got teary just watching commercials for the olympics so actually seeing the opening ceremonies in my ‘home and native land’ was amazing!

  16. Jill

    I thought he was really good. He really did say some great things about Canada. I love our friends to the north. haha

    I grew up in Michigan watching ‘Hockey Night In Canada’ and knew all the words as a little girl. So of course I sang along. haha

  17. Jill

    sorry to post again, but i forgot to say how much i loved hearing all the French, it sounds so much nicer than some languages. to me at least. :-D

  18. lynn

    Thanks Trent,

    It brought tears ti this proud Canadians eyes. What a wonderful way to let people know who we are!

    Lynn

  19. Ave

    @Holly French is NOT dead everywhere but Quebec! I am a French Immersion Teacher in Toronto – We are proud to learn and speak french together. I went to an elementary FRENCH school in Toronto (not immersion – pure French) and FRENCH High School in T.O. , Studied French in University and went to Teacher’s College, ALL IN FRENCH, Le Francais n’est pas mort au Canada, ma belle.

  20. Kendra

    I thought this guy was a Grade A douchebag..Maybe it was due to his neckbeard? Anywho, I fast forwarded through most of his speech cuz I couldn’t stand to hear him speak, but the speech itself was really cute.. :)

  21. jessica

    @ Kendra – some people find him pretentious….
    @Ave – While I understand what you’re saying, I think it’s somewhat b/c you are A) close to Quebec and B) teaching french immersion. No one in BC speaks anything close to conversational french UNLESS they went to french immersion. I don’t know if that says more about the quality of french lessons on our side of the country or just to student priorities regarding a language that we don’t interact with at all outside of the 1hr lessons every second or third day. A lot of schools on my side of the country are allowing students to elect to switch from French to Spanish in high school.

  22. rossy

    As a Canadian from birth, I also say “zed” instead of “zee” for the simply matter that it sounds better. But I don’t go with trends or… following the crowd, so to speak, when it comes to spelling certain words. I go simple.
    -
    For example: Words like catalog, donut, center, etc., aren’t spelled like this by Canadians… I forget to add letters or switch them around for the sake of “Canadian-ism” but more a case of phonetics (write it the way it sounds)… I also find that when I speak in public I use some U.K. words: “ta” (thanks), “flat” (apartment/suite), etc.
    -
    I guess it all comes down to one’s preferences & individuality, doesn’t it?

  23. muchacha

    Didn’t the CBC say this guy was from the NWT? I am ambivalent about last’s night ceremony. Overall the different pieces were cool, particularly the Prairie scene (love Joni Mitchell) and KD Lang kicked ass, but I am also sick of the stereotypical ‘Canadian representation’, I feel like I’d seen it all before.

    I also felt like French Canada was under-represented, as was perhaps China and India, as the latter two groups combined make up the greater representation of Vancouver’s population than English.

  24. Jenn C from BC, Canada

    Shane is actually from Penticton, BC, Canada, I went to high school with him. And to those who say French is dead give your head a shake. I am completely bilingual and I live in BC.

  25. tobytheevilbird

    I’m with muchacha: I’m a Vancouverite myself and was utterly disgusted by the representations of “multicultural Canada” that we are all so proud of, particularly the ones of the aboriginal communities. Considering Vancouver (East side) has the worst poverty rate in the entire country, and most of them being the first nations people who have no claim over the lands that were stolen from them, on which this Olympics is now being held, the welcoming ceremony at the beginning was nothing but absurd and offensive. Yes, it was visually stunning. But the whole thing was based on this English (white) Canadian’s fantasy of unity and celebration of diversity. Being an Asian immigrant and queer, I stand in solidarity with those whose faces were erased from that performance of Multicutural Canada.

  26. Steph

    “we don’t have all the answers/but we try/and the effort is what makes us more”

    @ Holly– you should know, that although I believe you are wholeheartedly entitled to your opinion, French is not only a “Quebec” thing. Case in point, New Bruswick is a bilingual province, with a substantial Acadian population. In fact, there are several communities throughout the country that have french as a first language. However, this is not my point. To me, it hurts to think that you believe French is dead, and even more that it annoyed you that its presense was palpable. Fact remains, language rights are entrenched in the Constitution–in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. So, while I appreciate that you have your opinion, and that it might be completely grounded in reality, I would ask you to follow Shane’s advice of trying and making an effort to understand Canada’s francophone population. As someone who is born and raised in Montreal (but having English as my first tongue), I truly feel that these are the kinds of beliefs that perpuate ridiculous animosity between the two “sides”. Similarly, we don’t know where time will take us. Maybe in fifty years time Mandarin will become one of Canada’s most commonly used languages… forming the basis for entrenched protection in the Constitution. Will that bother you as well? Regardless, at the end of the day, people are just people, and everyone deserves respect. Which, ultimately, I believe Shane was getting at. Ok. Rant done.

  27. patches

    omg you trolls with your negative rants, why do you always have to ruin a good post.

    • @patches @everyone — Here’s the thing, there will always be negatively hateful people no matter what the circumstance … without fail, they will chime in to offer their $0.02. I’m of the mind that they should be left to to their own negativity and the more positive people should just ignore and not take on any of that negativity. Focus on the positive and know that there are many, many others who are reveling in the positivity with you ;)

  28. i loved this portion of the ceremony. i loved the fact that he mentioned the rocket, cuz he is the hero of hockey, in my oppinion. he spoke up for the french language when it was laughed at in hockey. a truly powerful man that should never be forgotten. if you guys havnt seen the movie about Maurice “the rocket“ Richard, i suggest you do, cuz its part of canadian culture.

  29. Shannon

    Thanks so much for posting this piece. I loved that part of the ceremony. As a Canadian I feel like the poem is an wonderfully artistic and accurate description of this country.

  30. lola

    The whole performance was AMAZING. I AM ONE PROUD CANADIAN!

  31. Ave

    @ Jessica I studied Spanish, French AND English in High School…and I’m fluent in Italian. I think the more languages the better, because language is at the base of all communication. We’re so lucky here in Canada, especially in Toronto, that you can walk down the street and hear hundreds of languages spoken every day…. but we really shouldn’t think that French is dying out. There are people who fought with their lives in Ontario for French Education. I get very sad when people say that it doesn’t matter, just some “one hour class” to complain about and get out of the way. So sad.

  32. Thanks for posting this. The most powerful line for me was “but don’t let your luggage define your travels”…I changed my Facebook quote to that, and will try and live by it!

  33. jessica

    For the record.. I have no problem with it being included in the Olympics. @ Ave – I apologize b/c my response should only be about my own experience. I studied 4 languages growing up – The fact that that I had limited language class time made it difficult for me to learn. My own high school students (Vancouver) speak a gizillion different languages in my classes but it isn’t b/c they’ve learned those languages solely in/from school. I agree, communication can be a beautiful thing.

  34. Camillia

    THANK YOU TRENT FOR POSTING THIS! I’m happy the opening ceremonies made an impact on you. As a Canadian, a BC resident and a long time reader of your blog, it means a lot to me :) I’m so proud of my country!!!!!

  35. Eric26

    I thought the speech was a bit on the cheesy side, and the Canadian stereotypes he mentioned weren’t cute, they just made me and my family cringe as we watched.

  36. M

    thank you for posting this! I was so proud of the opening ceremony!! K.D Lang was amazing, and the Joni Mitchell song was the perfect touch, I wish she was there live. I’m from Vancouver…I didn’t mind the french…and I say Zee because that rhymes when you sing the alphabet…I always thought it was weird that I was supposed to be Zed. Trent, come visit Vancouver I will buy you a cocktail! xox

  37. Shannon

    I thought that poem was beautiful, and so very Canadian :) As a Proud Canadian myself I was very moved by his poem and it was indeed the highlight of the ceremonies for me. Eh!

  38. Kelli

    This poem made me proud to be a Canadian…I am also proud that I am a bilingual Canadian. That is something that sets us apart from our American counterparts, we have TWO official languages.I have lived in Ontario, BC, and now NS and the fact that I can speak two languages has been nothing but a good thing. I have been able to use my French in all parts of our country. Bilingualism should be as Canadian as Maple Syrup and Hockey! My children will all be raised learning french and I am an Anglo-Canadian. I want to be a part of the “experiment going right for a change”. Tolerance and acceptance…isn’t that what we’re known for? French is alive and well…rumours of it’s death have been greatly exagerated. Learn to speak both of our Official languages and you won’t feel threatned by the presence of French in any capacity.

  39. Car

    @muchacha
    You thought French was under represented???? Did you even watch the opening ceremonies? Everything was said in French BEFORE English in a country where less than 20% speak French. I thought Doing everything in French first was bulls–t, just the commitee being over politcally correct, give me a break!
    Besides everything being said in French first, I thought the opening ceremonies were fantastic!

  40. Car

    @ Kelli
    I am also a billingual Canadian, and being able to speak BOTH French and English does not negate the fact that they should not be saying everything in French BEFORE English (the MAJORITY of Canadians do not speak French). BTW being a country with 2 official languages is not what sets apart from the USA. Look how many countries around the world have more than one official language.

  41. Kristy

    @ Holly
    French is the official language of the Olympics. It’s at every opening ceremonies, not just the Canadian ones. It’s also why it was spoken first, not because Canada is bilingual.

  42. Kelli

    @ Car- I am well aware that there are other countries that have more than one official language. We are not often mistaken for being from any other nation that the USA when we travel abroad …that’s why I used them as an example. French is always spoken at the Olympics..There are participating countries that speak French as their second language and not English. I don’t care what order they are spoken. French first/ English first..Not important, I do take exception to the comment that French is dead in Canada. It is comments like that that cause a rift in our country.

  43. Rossboss

    I liked it alot, and I’m glad Trent brought it up. Although I feel like any attempts that people try to bring everyone toegther, nay-sayers bring up extreme negativity when they say things like, “We will never be united. It’s racist, colonialistic, sexist. etc.” More for the idea that they want to stick it to the man and they feel the idea of feeling Canadian and attempting to get together means that they are bending over for the man.

  44. Heather

    @muchacha, you also need to remember that this is the aboriginal pplz lands not Chinese or Indian, just cuz they make up the most population, at one point white people made up the most population, doesn’t mean they have to incorporate that. we live on aboriginal pplz lands, its the least we could do for them,

  45. Kim

    I am from vancouver and i have never spoken french outside of a school lesson. So those of you that love french, good for you. But the only place you need to speak it is if you go to Quebec. So yes over here it is somewhat dead. Get over yourself just cuz you’ve spent so much time learning it, how often do you actually speak it to people here other then when you’re being a snob. Secondly, I think it’s great that we wanted to show everything that we are made up of, but what about all the asians, africans, germans, SO many more things that make us up. I dont understand why everything was french first when only one province speaks french, and why everything was aboriginal. Yes they are definatly due respect and a big part of the opening ceremonies, but it felt like it was TOTALLY devoted to aboriginals, and then the french. I thought it could have been alot more exciting, the awesome part was sarah mcglaghlin and the poem. AWESOME POEM, and who’s canadian that doesn’t say zed?

  46. Kim

    YES, EVERYONE GETS IT, WHITE PEOPLE STOLE THE NATIVES LAND. GET OVER IT! NATIVES GET TONS OF STUFF FOR FREE, YES IT’S DESERVED BUT SERIOUSLY, GET OVER IT NOW!!!

  47. K

    @Kim — Maybe you should learn more French because your English is atrocious. Your pitiful grammar is embarrassing.

  48. Lisa

    @Kim- I live in Vancouver and I’ve worked in many offices in the downtown core where French is required and is absolutely helpful to have.

    I’m not sure if its the fact that maybe you aren’t experienced enough to understand how French is used outside of school or if you haven’t had the opportunity to work in an office that’s bilingual- but french is out there and people use it all the time.

    P.S Please remember that not only do we say “Please, Thank you and Welcome” we are also respectful. It’s the humane thing to do. So please respect the fact that VanOc decided to pay tribute to the Four Host nations.

  49. Paul From Toronto

    Ya Canada! Love it!

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