The heartbeat of a live poetry slam is discovering truth through the exchange of lyrical words and eye-catching, raw performances. “When the poem calls to be written, I will write it,” says local spoken-word poet Truth Is. “It’s not like I have a writer on demand.
“When I take the stage with my work it’s about reading the audience and environment that surrounds the room, and then using poetry as a tool of exchanging energy. I want to do well because it gives me more opportunity to share.”
Look for sparks to fly on Sun, Sep 25 when Truth Is joins the Toronto Poetry Slam (TPS) contingent (with Beth Anne Fischer and Tanya Neumeyer) in The Word on the Street’s queer tent Proud Voices.
Truth Is, under the alias Black Ice, started off as a budding hip-hop artist who saw rap as a way of connecting with her boys in the scene. “I thought, ‘You know what? I can do this!’ So I went home and wrote a rhyme and came back and dropped it. And from then on I began to freestyle. But I never ever wanted to be rap artist.” She quickly dropped the name because there was already a rapper in Philadelphia called Black Ice.
In 2002 the young wordsmith saw her first spoken-word performance at a Martin Luther King Jr birthday celebration in Toronto. “I was jamming my cousin in the ribs and saying, ‘I wanna do that.’” She says her new stage name arose when a friend told her, “‘You are always talking, “Truth is this. Truth is that.’ You even getting a ‘truth is’ tattoo. Why don’t you just call yourself ‘Truth Is?’” Then the light bulb went on and I became Truth Is.
“Having a name like Truth Is you can’t come up with some bullshit. I always feel I have to dig deeper to get to the core of the value because that is the only truth I have to offer.”
Born in Toronto to parents of Jamaican descent, Truth Is shows wisdom and maturity far beyond her 25 years and has come to the notice of many through successful events such as Strong Words, an artist/activist forum at the Gladstone, and Cryptic Chatter, a poetry and spoken word series at the Renaissance Café.
Earlier this year Truth Is was crowned grand slam champion of TPS, the popular monthly series running since 2005. “Her strong voice, her excellent writing skills and her dedication to the craft really shone in that first night,” says TPS director David Silverberg. “These days it’s tough to tear her away from the mic.”
Truth Is also participates in TPS’s new youth and schools program Toronto Poetry Project which is part of Proud Voices. “We have been participating with Word on the Street for four years and truly enjoy the variety of audiences that are attracted to our spoken-word events,” says Silverberg.
“I don’t really care for anyone to remember my face,” says Truth Is. “I want them to remember how they felt when they heard my poetry, or when they read it. I want my words to transcend time and remain valid on how we connect with each other.”