UnSpoken Truth by Angela Bowden

The truth will not stay buried. This is what I hope we’ve all learned throughout this summer of uncovering violent, racist truths in Canada. We cannot have reconciliation without truth, and we cannot move forward without reconciliation. Truth means acknowledging the ugliness of our past and present. It means understanding the systems put in place to oppress and dehumanize racialized groups of people. How can we change if we don’t acknowledge what happened—what continues to happen—because of these systems? Angela Bowden’s poetry collection UnSpoken Truth addresses all of these concerns. Her poems demonstrate the importance of truth, remembrance, and resistance with a particular focus on uncovering the truths about the Black experience in Atlantic Canada. 

“The poems in UnSpoken Truth are often raw in tone and content and engage directly with Black issues in Canada.”

Bowden uses rhythm expertly in her poetry—I could sense her roots as a spoken-word artist in the rhythm of poems like “Responsibility Resist” and “A Home From a Shack”, which demand to be read aloud to truly experience the rolling sense of the rhyme. Other poems like “Scented Seasons” draw the reader into a three-dimensional world, asking us to use our senses of smell and touch to experience the vibrancy of the poem. I love poetry that takes me off the page by inciting the use of all my senses and I enjoyed letting Bowden’s language draw me in.  

The poems in UnSpoken Truth are often raw in tone and content and engage directly with Black issues in Canada (and in Atlantic Canada, more specifically). Although the truths of racism are imperative to understand and acknowledge, these truths can weigh heavy; as Bowden expresses in the poem “Sigh”, “I am exhausted from picking up the pieces of your hate” (60). 

A strong sense of community runs through all of the poems in the collection. Bowden not only explores her own experiences as a Black Nova Scotian today, but she also reaches back through the years, capturing the traumatic experiences of her parents and grandparents, and connecting these histories to the larger history of African enslavement in Canada—a truth that many contemporary Canadians don’t even realize (and many would rather ignore). Bowden’s poetry is always connected to the past, showing how history informs the present, how it shapes who we are, and how the knowing truth of the past can help us step into ourselves more fully.   

Bowden’s strong voice and clear sense of purpose in this collection make it accessible and vital: all the poems are tied together by a need for a complete understanding of Black history in Atlantic Canada and an understanding of resilience and resistance as a way forward. In UnSpoken Truth, Bowden shows she is not only an eloquent poet but a capable teacher and dedicated activist who serves her community by uncovering hidden truths and remembering important histories that must not be lost to time.  

TEDx speaker, writer, and activist, Angela Bowden is a descendent of the stolen Africans sold through the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. Angela’s roots were preserved through the Black Loyalists arriving in Birchtown, migrating to Guysborough County, and later moving to New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, where she was born and raised.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Pottersfield Press (April 6 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 160 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1989725392
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1989725399

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Rachel Fernandes was raised in Ottawa, where she completed her Honours BA and MA in English at the University of Ottawa. She is now based in Kingston, where she is a PhD Candidate studying contemporary North American literature. Her research focuses on mixed race identity in various genres, including memoir, poetry, and the novel.
Over the last decade, she has published a smattering of poems through small presses such as In/Words, Joypuke, Coven, and Feathertale, and served on the editorial boards of The Ottawa Arts Review and The Lamp Literary Journal. She loves reading even more than she loves writing, and is excited to share and discuss new Canadian work through The Miramichi Reader.