Remembering The Women Forgotten on December 6th: Aboriginal, of Colour, Trans, Queer, Disabled, Sex Worker

Interview by Jorge Antonio Vallejos; review by Janet Romero Leiva; cross-posted from Black Coffee Poet

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!

Listen….

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!