Queer black poet Truth Is quickly won the hearts of local slam poets after she moved to the Ottawa area for about a year with her partner. While she has since moved to Guelph, Ontario, she is still a local favourite.
Truth will soon be in town with the rest of the When Sisters Speak Ottawa crew for the second annual edition of the event. Xtra sat down with Truth to get the lowdown on this year’s show and find out what’s going on in her universe.
Xtra: I hear you’re going to be part of When Sisters Speak this year — this makes, what, the fourth time?
What has the experience been like?
It’s been amazing. I’m familiar with most of the women I’ve shared the stage with, and they inspire me to an immense level. Their words are powerful, and their presence is something to look forward to. Because I’m just Truth. I’m just hanging out with my dog here, writing some poems. I’m speaking my heart and speaking my mind, but there’s someone else on the other end of that saying, “Whoa, this is amazing! I’ve been trying to articulate this for so long!” It gives you hope that your words can reach this larger audience.
Do you have any heroes in the lineup this year?
I am a huge fan of Queen Sheba. She encompasses this whole next level of where poetry can go. Even her personality. It makes me feel special to be on a stage with her. And Keisha Monique. I’m really excited to be on a stage with her.
What does it mean to you to be part of an event that’s about the visibility of poetry but also dedicated to black women artists?
It’s fantastic. This is definitely a beautiful space to have. For black women to have the space to say, ‘Hey, this is what’s going on in my world. Care to take a walk? Let’s go on this journey.’ It’s a beautiful thing. You don’t get to see many women headline a stage. That’s why things like Voices of Venus have been started. You go into the slam community, which is where spoken word is most prevalent, and it’s male-dominated. Women feel like they don’t really have a place to speak or that they wouldn’t necessarily be understood because the audience is all male, and not all of them are as enlightened as others. But here, the whole entire spectrum is coming to listen to what these women have to say. A stage for black women to speak their minds freely. We needed that.
Are you the only queer poet in the lineup this year?
None of the others openly identify as queer — I can say that for sure.
How do the Guelph and Toronto spoken-word scenes compare to Ottawa?
I really enjoyed the Ottawa scene. There was so much happening, so [many] quality things happening. The beauty of it all is that people in the spoken-word community in Ottawa, they communicate. The shows don’t conflict with each other as much. If you compare it to Toronto, there are so many different shows happening and different scenes — they’re bound to clash. In Ottawa, it was just the right amount. Here in Guelph, we’re essentially the only spoken-word organization in the city. This year and last year, we had teams that went to the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word, and they did well. We’re growing in that sense.
What other projects are you working on?
Well, I’ve made my CD available digitally for the first time because I was getting emails from people in Europe and such who wanted to know how to buy my stuff. So there’s that. And I’m working on something new right now – a mini-EP with some enticing tracks. I haven’t named it yet. I’ll probably call it Ellipsis.
And you’re working on a book, as well?
Yeah, the book is a collection of poetry. It’ll be a chapbook. But I won’t have it finished in time for When Sisters Speak, sadly.
When Sisters Speak Ottawa
Sun, Jan 22, 7–10pm
Ottawa U Alumni Auditorium
85 University Private
$20 advance, $25 door