We virtually chatted with debut poet Therese Estacion about her new book Phantompains(Book*hug Press), a visceral, dreamlike collection of poems that explores disability, grief, and life. In her early thirties, Therese survived a rare infection that resulted in the loss of both her legs below the knees, several fingers, and reproductive organs. In these poems, Therese attempts to deal with the trauma of hospitalization and how to find a way to move forward after loss.
Read on for our interview with Therese, or listen to the audio version below.
Our interview with Therese is available both in print and audio, below.
Phantompains will be available in many fully accessible formats, including braille, audio, and ebook.
Co-publisher Hazel Millar at Book*hug notes:
"It was very important to all of us at Book*hug and to Therese Estacion 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, Phantompainswill be made 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, please visit
All Lit Up: Congratulations on your debut book of poetry! Can you tell our readers a little about your collection?
Therese Estacion: Thank you! The book seems to have three types of poems: Filipinx cautionary tales, poems about grief and mourning, and then poems that attempt to piece together my memory of what had occurred to me after I fell ill, which eventually led to my disability. The overall theme, though, would probably be “home.” I didn’t know this at the time, but I was writing about how far away I was from home—from my former able body, my childhood in the Philippines, and my repressed memories and feelings. Through the collection, I try to retrace my steps back to the beginning or source somehow.
Phantompains is available in print on March 31
ALU: In Phantompains, you explore disability, trauma, and recovery informed by your experience as a person who became disabled in her thirties. How has your physical transformation changed your art?
TE: I decided to really take risks and be intentionally unabashed with my writing, especially regarding sex. I also put in a lot of time working through pieces that were very difficult to feel. I didn’t want to save the reader from the more disturbing aspects of myself and tried to sublimate those parts into art.
I also learned a lot about my process and how I like to work. It never occurred to me that I could be so obsessive about line breaks.
ALU: We understand Brecken Hancock was the editor of your book. What was the editorial experience like for you?
TE: Brecken was so wonderful to work with. I knew I wanted to work with her after reading Broom Broom. Brecken taught me a lot about commitment as a poet. I learned so much from her and always left feeling like I could dig up graves or something after our sessions. I am very fortunate to have had her as an editor and mentor. My work is what it is because of her. I suppose you always end up absorbing your editor’s energy, and I am glad she has an intense, yet warm, one!
ALU: Can you tell us what the title Phantompains means to you?
TE: Phantompains has a double meaning. It literally refers to the pain amputees feel because our brains sometimes forget that our limbs are no longer there (ie. feeling an ankle sprain sans ankle), or it can refer to a shock in our nerves, it may be similar to what you feel at the dentist when the anaesthesia is wearing off.
It also refers to the invisible pain that people, or I, carry. Like melancholy or rage, or a sense of feeling rejected or at a loss. So perhaps it refers to psychic pain.
ALU: What, outside of books and writers, inspires your poetry?
TE: People who speak with candour and audacity, and who are also playful. James Baldwin and Fran Lebowitz come to my mind. Whenever I listen to them, I get a shot of adrenaline and clarity. My chest opens up a bit.
Check out the audio interview with Therese, below.
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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.
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Thank you so much to Therese for answering our questions and taking the time to chat with us, and to Hazel Millar at Book*hug Press for connecting us.
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