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Flèche: Book summary and reviews of Flèche by Mary Jean Chan

Flèche

by Mary Jean Chan

Flèche by Mary Jean Chan X
Flèche by Mary Jean Chan
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  • Published in USA  Mar 2020
    88 pages
    Genre: Poetry

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Book Summary

A series of poems that feel urgent and true, dazzling and devastating by turns.

Flèche (the French word for 'arrow') is an offensive technique commonly used in fencing, a sport of Mary Jean Chan's young adult years, when she competed locally and internationally for her home city, Hong Kong. This cross-linguistic pun presents the queer, non-white body as both vulnerable ('flesh') and weaponised ('flèche'), and 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.

Central to the collection is the figure of the poet's mother, whose fragmented memories of political turmoil in twentieth-century China are sensitively threaded through the book in an eight-part poetic sequence, combined with recollections from Chan's childhood. As complex themes of multilingualism, queerness, psychoanalysis and cultural history emerge, so too does a richly imagined personal, maternal and national biography.

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  • award image Costa Book Awards, 2019

Reviews

Media Reviews

"Sparkling and vulnerable ... the arrival of an essential new voice." - Sarah Howe

"Heartbreaking and breathtaking poems ... beautifully composed on every page." - Diva Magazine

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Author Information

Mary Jean Chan

Mary Jean Chan (b. 1990) is the author of Flèche, which was chosen as a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. Her work has featured as a Guardian Poem of the Week, a Guardian Poem of the Month and as one of The Telegraph's best poems of the year. In 2019, Mary Jean was named as one of Jackie Kay's 10 Best BAME writers in Britain. Flèche is the winner of the 2019 Costa Book Awards for Poetry, and has been chosen as a Book of the Year by The Guardian, The Irish Times and The White Review.

In 2016, Mary Jean won the Oxford Brookes International Poetry Competition in the English as an Additional Language category. In 2017, she won the Poetry Society Anne Born Prize and the Institute of Psychoanalysis Poetry and Psychoanalysis Competition, and came Second in the 2017 National Poetry Competition. The title poem from her debut collection won the 2018 Poetry Society Geoffrey Dearmer Prize. She has been shortlisted for The Forward Prize for Best Single Poem twice, and is the recipient of a 2019 Eric Gregory Award.

A Ledbury Poetry Critic, she has written reviews for Guardian Review, The Poetry Review and Poetry London. Her prose has appeared in The Journal of American Studies, Wild Court and Modern Poetry in Translation. In 2017, she won the Postcolonial Studies Association/Journal of Postcolonial Writing Postgraduate Essay Prize. She is guest co-editor of The Poetry Review for Spring 2020. Born and raised in Hong Kong, Mary Jean is a Lecturer in Creative Writing (Poetry) at Oxford Brookes University and lives in London.

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