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. Phantompains is her first book.
1 - How did your first book change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?
Phantompains is my first book, and I am curious as to how it will impact my relationships and change how people perceive me as a disabled person/person with a disability. So far, it has allowed me to engage with people I would never have had the chance to cross paths with, which has been pretty cool.
2 - How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?
I initially gravitated towards poetry because I thought it would be an easier genre to tackle since you can essentially write a one lined poem. Not so. Poetry is quite deceptive that way. Paradoxically, brevity can require so much time and psychic energy.
3 - How long does it take to start any particular writing project? Does your writing initially come quickly, or is it a slow process? Do first drafts appear looking close to their final shape, or does your work come out of copious notes?
Most of my writing comes spontaneously, more specifically, when I am in a bad mood. As a result, sometimes a lot of time passes before I start writing again. But, I try to write when I feel like writing. It doesn’t work when I force myself. However, I do really work well with writing prompts from writing workshops. Hoa Nguyen runs excellent workshops and I have benefited greatly from them.
4 - Where does a poem usually begin for you?
Usually a memory, or a feeling I need to expunge or sublimate.
5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?
I like public readings. They’re a bit nerve-wrecking, but I appreciate feedback and like it when my poems get to come out to play so to speak. I am a pretty social person in general.
6 - Do you have any theoretical concerns behind your writing? What kinds of questions are you trying to answer with your work? What do you even think the current questions are?
I am trying to, in some of my poems anyways, deconstruct the very narrow view some people have towards disability and people from the Filipinx diaspora. I want to resist the ways in which people with disabilities/disabled people and women of colour have been made diminished, marginalized or objectified.
There are many questions that need to be answered. Some of them being: whose stories have been excluded? Who decides what qualifies as “good” art? How do you gaze and how have you been gazed? What do I want the reader to know and feel?
There’s an awesome poem by Ilnu poet, Marie-Andrée Gill that I really love that posits some of the questions I am trying to answer. She writes:
the accumulation of our gaze:
(I’m just trying to resemble
this ancient water of which I am the child)
7 –What do you think the role of the writer should be?
To be as authentic to themselves— their experiences, ideas, memories— as much as possible, and, at the same time, go beyond their own personal boundaries. Also, to have the reader feel something.
8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?
I’ve only worked with two editors: Sara Peters and Brecken Hancock. So…I won the lottery when it comes to working with editors! They were both intense, warm and generous. Working with them only made my work better, and I loved talking shop with them.
Feedback is incredibly important to me. I want to know if I am being authentic and if I had any grammatical errors!
9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?
It’s not necessarily advice…but a brilliant psychotherapist once said that courage is self-worth. I think of this often when I need courage.
11 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?
I turn to other poets or pay attention to what I am working on in my own personal therapy.
12 - What fragrance reminds you of home?
Suka, which is white vinegar infused with red chilies and minced garlic. It’s a good counterbalance to anything fatty, and Filipinx food can be so fatty!
13 - David W. McFadden once said that books come from books, but are there any other forms that influence your work, whether nature, music, science or visual art?
Some aspects of nature have influenced my work—motion in nature. The wind tends to show me what I need to know at times.
14 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?
15 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?
I’d love to purchase an electric assist recumbent bike one day and just bike around the country side. I’d also love to learn how to ski, or purchase an Icelandic therapy horse when I am older.
16 - If you could pick any other occupation to attempt, what would it be?
I am currently training to be a psychotherapist, so I look forward to the day I can begin my practice.
18 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?
I don’t know if I would call this film great…but the last film I re-watched was Waterworld. It’s not great… but it is a classic.
19 - What are you currently working on?
When I have the time, I work on one of my longer prose pieces titled “Balikbayan Box”. It’s about my father’s side of the family and primarily takes place in the town he grew up in— Gihulngan. It’s one of my favourite places on earth and sort of reminds me of the place Marquez wrote about in One Hundred Years of Solitude. It’s taking some time to write since it involves some family dram, which often requires an amount of sensitivity and some permission.