Author(s): Mary Jean Chan
In Flèche, Mary Jean Chan evokes the difficulties of reconciling one’s need for safety alongside the desire to shed one’s protective armour in order to fully embrace the world.
Much like the fencer who must constantly read and respond to her opponent's tactics during a fencing bout, this debut collection by Mary Jean Chan deftly examines relationships at once conflictual and tender. Flèche (the French word for 'arrow') is an offensive technique commonly used in epee, a competitive sport of the poet's teenage and young adult years. This cross-linguistic pun presents the queer, non-white body as both vulnerable ('flesh') and weaponised ('flèche') in public and private spaces.
Themes of multilingualism, queerness, post-colonialism, psychoanalysis and cultural history emerge by means of an imagined personal, maternal and national biography, spoken by a polyphony of female voices. The result is a series of poems that are urgent and hard-hitting as Chan keeps her readers on their toes, dazzling and devastating them by turn.
Winner Costa Award for Poetry - 2019
POETRY BOOK SOCIETY RECOMMENDATION
Mary Jean Chan is a poet, editor and academic from Hong Kong. Her debut pamphlet, A Hurry of English, was selected as the 2018 Poetry Book Society Summer Pamphlet Choice. She is a Ledbury Emerging Poetry Critic, editor of Oxford Poetry and advisory board member at the Poetry Translation Centre. She lives in London and works as a Lecturer in Creative Writing (Poetry) at Oxford Brookes University.