“I’m tired of living in a world that says people only come together when faced with catastrophe.”

Shane Koyczan’s collection of poetry Our Deathbeds Will Be Thirsty is a celebration of love transcending personal differences.

Shane Koyczan is a spoken-word (slam) poet, born in Yellowknife, but with global reach and acclaim—I actually first heard of him from a friend born in Hong Kong who suggested “To This Day”, the fourth poem of this collection.

Our Deathbeds Will Be Thirsty is almost structured like a book of short stories, with concepts interconnecting and recurring throughout the book in a way that makes it rewarding to read as one book, instead of poem by poem.

The collection itself seemed to me to be centred around all the parts of society that are always forgotten or left by the wayside in a majority of published works. Instead of glossing over the impact schoolyard taunts, or forgetting to appreciate the beauty of self-confidence, Our Deathbeds Will Be Thirsty celebrates life in the details.

My father got me the book after seeing Shane Koyczan perform at Folk on the Rocks a few years ago, but before now I had only listened to his poems performed live. The poems were just as emotional and (often) desperate as they are when performed out loud, and structured visually in a way that encouraged me to read them in my head the same way that they would be performed by a spoken word poet.

Our Deathbeds Will Be Thirsty supports unity among people by embracing shared experiences—love, hurt, depression. The work is almost on the level of research at some points, trying to find an antidote to love, a cure for depression, concluding always that sometimes even art is futile in making real-life stop hurting.

Love is given extraordinary power within this book, Shane Koyczan giving breakups, glances between couples, and just the simple act of saying I love you to someone life within this collection beyond the romantic.

The intent of the collection as an excavation of what binds us together as humans elevates Our Deathbeds Will Be Thirsty from just a collection of poetry, making it my favourite book I have read so far this summer.

Personal highlights from this collection include “(W)hole”, “Spandex”, and “The Crickets Have Arthritis”.

Genres: Poetry, Canadian | Similar Books: All The Hits So Far (But Don’t Expect Too Much) by Bradley Hathaway

Grace Guy

Grace Guy was born and raised in Yellowknife, and has been writing book reviews featuring Northern and Indigenous content for NNSL Media since 2019. Now, after completing her master of arts at the University...

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  1. Hello Grace ur article is so good I enjoyed reading ur insights into the work of Shane Koyczan of YK. You have a depth of perception Love