Happy Publication Day to Therese Estacion’s Phantompains! We’re honoured to share Estacion’s visceral, imaginative debut poetry collection with you, which began as an essential task to deal with the trauma of hospitalization and what followed. Estacion survived a rare infection that nearly killed her, but not without losing both her legs below the knees, several fingers, and her reproductive organs. Taking inspiration from Filipino horror and folk tales, the poems in Phantompains are demonstrations of the power of our imaginations to provide catharsis, preserve memory, rebel, and even find self-love. Author Tamara Faith Berger calls the book “a text of rare power, birthing a brave new world flush with pain, lust, drugs and the uterus… utterly indelible.”
It was essential to all of us at Book*hug and Therese that we make every effort to publish Phantompains in a variety of accessible formats. In addition to being available as a trade paperback, we are working with ECW to produce a fully accessible audiobook, which Therese will narrate. We also worked with Laura Brady to convert the book into accessible ebook formats. With the partnership of the National Network for Equitable Library Service (NNELS) Braille for New Publications Project, Phantompains is now available in electronic braille through the NNELS repository for Canadian readers with print disabilities. The embossed braille book will be hosted by Six Nations Public Library in Ohsweken, Ontario, and will be available through inter-library loan to all Canadians through their public libraries. This project was made possible with support from the Government of Canada’s Social Development Partnership Program – Disability Component. For more information on this project, visit www.nnels.ca/braille.
We talked to Therese about recommended reading, optical phenomena, and why you should “make your way up north one of these days.” One thing is certain: with Estacion’s guidance, you’ll never wonder what to read next.
B*H: What are you currently writing?
TE: I am currently writing a set of poems about the feelings I had after being discharged from West Park, the rehabilitation hospital I was living in for close to six months. When I finally emerged out of the safety of the hospital’s “bubble,” I felt very isolated and angry. I began to realize what it meant to lose so much and be disabled.
I recently heard a line on an episode of This American Life, “Three Miles: Race, Class and Education,” that expressed this time in my life and my recent poems: “(she was) dropped into a foreign land and imagined (herself) belonging.” I think this line captures the sentiment I am presently trying to unpack in my writing.
B*H: What are you currently reading?
TE: I am currently reading Esmé Weijun Wang’s The Collected Schizophrenias. And it is so difficult to put down! I can relate to the frustration she feels regarding loss—a loss of privacy and autonomy—and that the world you are is a quite a confusing place to be in.
B*H: What book—or books—would you recommend to a new friend?
TE: For fiction:
Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin, to find refuge.
McGlue by Ottessa Moshfegh, to feel in suspense and dizzy.
Our Lady of Perpetual Realness by Cason Sharpe, to feel like you are young in Montreal.
Queen Solomon by Tamara Faith Berger, to feel hot and incredibly bothered.
For essays or non-fiction:
21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act by Bob Joseph, to know our history.
Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino, to enjoy being a millennial.
Disfigured: On Fairy Tales, Disability and Making Space by Amanda Leduc, to learn about ableism.
BlackLife: Post-BLM and the Struggle for Freedom by Rinaldo Walcott and Idil Abdillahi, to understand the struggle within the Canadian context.
Float by Anne Carson, to be immersed.
Broom Broom by Brecken Hancock, to feel anger and know it is OK.
I Become a Delight to My Enemies by Sara Peters, to live with women on a precipice.
Slow Lightning by Eduardo C. Corral, to understand what terracotta feels like.
B*H: What book—or books—would you recommend to an old friend?
TE: For fiction:
The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter, to feel the erotic and be slightly afraid.
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez, to go home from a diasporic journey.
The Life and Loves of a She-Devil by Fay Weldon, to have fun with a condemned woman.
Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza by Gloria Anzaldúa, to see and be in-between a psychic space.
Academic Ableism: Disability and Higher Education by Jay Dolmage, to shed an illusion.
Women in Praise of the Sacred by Jane Hirshfield, to get close.
Everyday Tao: Living with Balance and Harmony by Deng Ming-Dao, to feel alright.
B*H: What makes you happy?
TE: My dog, Scooby, makes me happy. Laughing with my friends and family make me happy. Also, sitting outside during autumn. Or whenever people laugh at my jokes. When I feel like I belong.
B*H: Do you drink tea, coffee, neither, or both?
TE: I started drinking matcha tea recently since coffee was becoming a bit too acidic for me. Although, it is inevitable that I will return to drinking black coffee again.
B*H: Describe the sky where you are.
TE: Right now, it’s snowing. I think this is the first blizzard of the year. This type of weather makes me feel very nostalgic for the time I spent living in Yellowknife. I wish I could see the sky up there now… It’s probably the most beautiful sky I have ever seen. It’s a sky that plays with you.
During the months of January and February, the sun dogs show up and everyone will sort of stop what they’re doing to check it out. Then, when the light starts coming back in March, you can experience seeing the sky in its twilight form, from midnight to 3 a.m., transition straight into dawn and bypass the night.
And then there’s the aurora. They’re hard to describe, and after a while you take them for granted. But there’s a reason why people in Asia start saving money in high school just to one day travel across the world to experience them dancing. They’re incredibly beautiful. You could be having a very lonely and boring night, and then all of a sudden, the lights show up and the night becomes the best night of your life.
If you want to get to know the sky, make your way up north one of these days.
Therese Estacion is part of the Visayan diaspora community. She spent her childhood between Cebu and Gihulngan, two distinct islands found in the archipelago named by its colonizers as the Philippines, before she moved to Canada with her family when she was ten years old. She is an elementary school teacher and is currently studying to be a psychotherapist. Therese is also a bilateral below knee and partial hands amputee and identifies as a disabled person/person with a disability. Therese lives in Toronto. Her poems have been published in CV2 and PANK magazine, and shortlisted for the Marina Nemat Award. Phantompains is her first book.