A Reflection by Robert Nowlin on “To This Day” by poet, Shane Koyczan
18 Jan 2016
The differences in how we read this poem reveals once again how someone’s background influences how they read it. I was personally very moved; Shane’s anger very much reflects my feelings as I dealt with this as a child. Healing takes a long time; often a bullying victim must stare in the mirror and reclaim that what was created was done for good. I love how a popular Christian skit evangelist duo called “The Skit Guys” puts it: “God doesn’t make trash.” Adults need to hear this. Children need to hear this. I find that a large portion of the adult population in the United States and worldwide is stricken with belief that what the bullies have told them is truer than any other message about them.
I watched the video first. In the video, the illustrations enhanced the magnitude by which I was involved in the poem. While I heard Shane express these words, the emotional connection became very evident.
As I read the poem, I still listened to the audio as I followed along. His use of the personal pronouns in a single line was interesting to see in print. I wondered about his purpose in isolating the “he” and “she,” at the beginning of a new stanza. Interestingly, too, was that said pronouns would be the last word spoken of the previous phrase. This is very difficult resist analyzing; I feel that there is an intended message in these layers of meaning that Shane wanted to communicate. Perhaps, the act of reading aloud by overlaying the first “he” or “she” of the stanza with the previous stanza is a message of interconnectedness of all of the individuals spoken of in this poem. Additionally, perhaps the isolation of the pronoun at the beginning of the stanza gave him an opportunity to name the person. And it makes me wonder if Shane is confronting identity issues, both in terms of who he is, who others said he was, and who he was made to become. The mirror analogy at the end is a real life symbol of identity crisis.
As a Christ-follower, I can use this as a way to give a real testimony of how I call myself today. In public school there are creative ways to do this without imposing my own Christian faith while never ceasing to show Christlike love.
In summary, while I watched the video, I was able to get a better grasp of the emotions felt and the most important parts of the text based on the inflections as the poem was read by Shane. While I read the poem on the second time, I was able to see the meaning constructed through the text spacing. The spacing gave me a window into his emotions that allowed me to deeply analyze the poet’s purpose in this poem.
I think that Shane’s purpose in this poem is the pain and the struggle with identity faced by many victims of bullying. It is definitely more complex than this, but, I find that this is the central theme.
Shane identifies this identity conflict within himself. His bullies called him things that made him believe that he was less than human. Yet, he declares the bullies as “wrong” and takes on a “new” name. His name is “overcomer.”
The poem “To This Day,” by Shane Koyczan, can be read and listened to at the following address: http://www.tothisdayproject.com/the_poem.html
The poem, “To This Day,” by Shane Koyczan, can be viewed with illustration at this address: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ltun92DfnPY