The Erasable Woman

By Shaunga Tagore

Reviewed by Janet Romero-Leiva

(photo taken by Jorge Antonio Vallejos)

I am inspired to write, create, read.

To allow myself to feel…more, everything.

This, after reading Shaunga Tagore’s The Erasable Woman.

The Erasable Woman– the title alone tells you how brilliant this collection is – filled with poetry that will make you want to look at your naked body endlessly, redefine your feminism, visit your grandmother, learn the language of your ancestors, bring awareness to violence, be a better person. Yes, all this and more from a magical master’s thesis…I have never read a thesis in poetry and I am honoured for this to be my first.

For me, poetry is all about how I feel when the words on the page echo through my throat and into my body.  It’s about the images that sketch themselves into my memory and long to be translated on to paper/canvas/wood. If it was possible to do both simultaneously at this very moment (writing and drawing), it’s what I would be doing…after re-reading (for the 3rd time) The Erasable Woman, or perhaps while re-reading it.

Tagore’s writing creates this incredibly desire to want to feel every sensation in your body, from how it feels to be touched along your collarbone to the flowing of nutrients into your bloodstream. There is nothing you want to miss about how your body is responding to her words, how her words are stirring feelings you cannot afford to dismiss because if you happen to forget to acknowledge the body part/the feeling/the sensation, you will have missed a beautiful/painful story.

Filled with loss and longing, love and laughter, strength and determination, The Erasable Woman brings me back to some of my most loved queer poets/writers…Gloria Anzaldua, Chrystos, Audre Lorde, Anna Camilleri and Quo-li Driskill. Tagore has created a place where we can once again desire…for stories and histories re-told, for justice and justified anger, for hungry love and feared satisfaction.

Two of my favourite pieces in this collection are a slam on feminism in academia and my 12 year old body in the bathtub. In the slam, which is an academic must-read, Tagore speaks to all ‘those’ well intentioned feminists who have managed to convince themselves (and sometimes us too), that letting people of colour into academia is a favour that can only be re-paid by silent acceptance of the rules they have created for us. Let’s just say she very eloquently tells them where to go! And then there is the 12 year old girl in the bathtub discovering the wonder of her own body and how water on skin feels and fills her, how a sunday ritual becomes a daily desire for that which is unnamed, unacceptable, unspoken…yet so satisfying.

And as if this is not enough, we are privileged to see how this beautiful poet translates some of her words into images because two of the pieces include photographs/drawings (bodysnatchers and postcard stories). This adds a level of intimacy to the collection that allows the reader to experience poetry from a visual lens…which is incredible!

Now comes the part I suspect you might not want to, or be prepared to hear. So remember I mentioned that this is Tagore’s master thesis? Well it’s true, which translates into it not being in book form available for purchase…yet. This means if you ever hear of her reading somewhere, you must go! It also means you/me/we need to support local poets/writers by buying their work…so put your money where your politic is!


and you will discover that though The Erasable Woman might appear to be about one thing, as you read it you will come to realize that just when you expected a piece to continue talking about race or class or sexuality or language, the next word, next line, will take you in a direction you did not expect to go…but you’ll be so grateful you were there for the ride!

Janet Romero-Leiva is a queer artist who has lived in Toronto since she was taken from the south of the Americas in search of the ‘American Dream’.

Tune in to Black Coffee Poet Wednesday December 8, 2010 for an interview with Shaunga Tagore and a video of Anishinaabe poet Lena Recollet performing spoken word about self empowerment. 



By Suritah Wignall

A Space Gallery

401 Richmond St. West
Suite 110
Exhibition ends Dec 11th 2010

One of the hardest things that I have ever had to deal with is being a dark skinned black woman. For the longest time I felt uncomfortable in my own skin; these feelings came from my upbringing, my childhood experiences in elementary school, high school, and in my college years.


I went to a predominantly white catholic elementary school and an all girl catholic high school. The urban arts scene in Toronto has been transformative because it is filled with poets, artists, playwrights, actors and singers from all cultures and backgrounds who speak of their struggles, beauty and pain. It was there that I learned about the hardships and beauty of culture and skin tones. 


Visible/Invisible is a collection of four images that represent all the things I have ever longed for, from childhood to my adult life––love, affection and then acceptance. It is my hope to show that the only way to love yourself is to fully accept who you are.




About Black Coffee Poet

Black Coffee Poet is a mixed race poet, essayist, and journalist who focuses on Social Justice, Indigenous Rights, STOPPING Violence Against Women, Film, and Literature.
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  1. A V Snider says:

    Thank you for this post, Jorge. Too often social justice is whitewashed and issues only become relevant when white people are involved. I linked back to you on my blog today where I wrote about the loss of federal funding for the Sisters in Spirit initiative.

  2. Glad to see this post, Jorge. I’ve always felt uncomfortable with what is generally made of December 6th. Without denying the tragedy for those women and their families, and the killer too, and the whole community, still, i can’t help thinking, What about all the other women (and men)? It is the breathless, queasy sense that i’m meant to regard what happened in Montreal as a first. I wish i didn’t feel that way, didn’t feel there was pressure (from where?) to accept without question that these women stand for all murdered women.
    But, there is a statue in our city. It stands in Boyle Street, the poorest, roughest neighbourhood we have. It stands in a park frequented by homeless people, a park named for a woman who dedicated her life to community work. It stands in mute witness, every day, to lives of misery and violence. And it portrays “nice” women, women who sure don’t look(i know, don’t stereotype) like they’d ever set foot in that park. It says, the deaths of 14 young, mainstream, successful women matter, they signify more than what goes on here, they are Real tragedy…
    and that is just the first part of what offends me about this statue. The second part is the work itself. The women are in soft, submissive, victim poses, arms up, pleading for their lives. That – that?! – is what we are meant to remember? What they may have looked like when reduced to begging for mercy – if they were in a 1950s American movie, that is….. then again, maybe i’m making a case for that artwork – look, i’m talking to you about it, about its short-comings, about the uncomfortable realities of race and class it embodies….
    best blessings

  3. Pingback: » More on Dec. 6: Including Women of Colour Gender Focus


  5. Pingback: CHATTING UP UNIVERSITY CLASSES | Black Coffee Poet


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