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4.35  ·  Rating details ·  119 ratings  ·  19 reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 88 pages
Published July 4th 2019 by Faber Faber (first published July 2nd 2019)
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Average rating 4.35  · 
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Nov 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry, lgbt
A fantastic debut collection, Flèche is a very moving collection of poems about dislocation, queerness and love. Chan is bilingual in English and Cantonese, and these poems explore moving through two languages, English as a imperialist tool, and how speaking different languages in different aspects of one's life create a sense of splitting. It's also a very nuanced and thought-provoking portrait of relationships with family, particularly the mother and daughter relationship. The mother in these ...more
Bianca St.
a wonderful collection to have as my first poetry read of 2020!
Exquisite poems of love and longing, with the speaker’s loyalties always split between head and heart, flesh and spirit. Over it all presides the figure of a mother – not just Chan’s mother, who had difficulty accepting that her daughter was a lesbian, but also the relationship to the mother tongue (Chinese) and the mother country (Hong Kong). In form the poems range from prose paragraphs to aphoristic lines, and from stanzas to columns. Fencing terms are used for structure. I was impressed by ...more
Paul "Axl" Hurman
Jul 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Some really strong, affecting stuff in here, but for me it tailed off a bit towards the end and didn't quite keep the quality up in the final third section. Still, overall, a strong first collection.
Jun 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Angharad Morgan
Dec 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019-reads
I don't often write reviews on Goodreads and already know that I can't do justice to this incredible book, but I wanted to sing about it from the rooftops and definitely thought I should supplement the five stars. This is one of the best - potentially THE best - of the poetry collections I've read in the last few years since falling in love with poetry. It's so expertly put together from lots of different intricate ideas, thoughts and emotions. I'll be re-reading this, gifting it and buying it ...more
Erica G
Jun 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the most beautiful, exacting poetry collections I’ve ever read and I love almost every poem. When it comes out on 4th July, get yourself a copy ASAP!
Jan 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
This is Mary Jean Chan’s debut collection, Flèche. It's rather good.

A series of poems about identity and growing comfortable with oneself in the face of a world inclined to try and put you into boxes. A place where you are as unforgiving of yourself until you can forgive yourself even if you've nothing to forgive yourself for.

"I felt as if her voice was a sign/for me to finally relinquish/my own cruelty/towards myself/how strange to think/I've been looking everywhere/for forgiveness/and all it
Jay Moran
Aug 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
if you looked within me now, you'd see
that my languages are like roots
gnarled in soil, one and indivisible
except the world divides me endlessly
From the poem Wish (pg.64)

In the preface of this collection, Chan states that "This is a book of love poems", and she means it in every sense of the word. Flèche is brimming with love; every single line practically shimmers with it, as well as the underlying pain and anger that comes with it. Chan mostly explores her relationship with her mother, her
Jan 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
I had seen this collection floating about, but it only came to my attention fully after winning the Costa Poetry Award. Even then, I heard little about the collection's themes and I had no idea it had queer themes. That was a nice surprise. With exploration of lesbianism and strained mother-daughter relationships, this should be a collection that I love. It is accessible, even though the poet integrates her bilingual identity within her poetry. The language used is beautiful, but some of the ...more
Serge Neptune
Aug 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A great collection but it gets a bit lost towards the end (even though the last two poems are great).
I loved the preface, it might have been a poem in its own right.

Favourite poems: Conversation with Fantasy Mother, A Wild Patience Has Taken Me This Far, The Window, what my mother (a poet) might say (I), At the Castro, Notes Towards an Understanding, Rise and Shine, Tea Ceremony, what my mother (a poet) might say (II).
Atharv G.
Dec 20, 2019 added it
Shelves: hong-kong
I'm not going to rate this, but I found this poetry collection to be really moving and not too difficult to follow. Mary Jean Chan was very creative in her use of space and language, and I loved that she dipped into her multilingual heritage. I would recommend this collection for someone looking for an accessible poetry collection with a masterful use of language that will connect to you emotionally on wide-ranging topics from being queer to Chinese history.
these are my favourite lines:

“To love a city and to not have it love you back is its own form of torture”

“Her / anger is like the sun, which is like love, / which is the easiest thing, even on the / hardest of days.”

“I am a new earth arising from hierarchies of bone”

“Can you see how much effort it takes to face / a white mouth with so much to (dis-)prove?”
Aug 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
In this debut collection, Chan addresses the complexities, pain and tenderness of her postcolonial queer existence. Deftly weaving multi-lingual, historical and personal references into short verses, every word feels carefully conjured in this book. The poems are also structured in a thoughtful way that gradually unfolds the layers of Chan’s experiences and subjectivity as her mother’s daughter.
Jul 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Outstanding first collection from Mary Jean Chan dealing with sexuality, family and acceptance/non acceptance. I found it a compelling read.
Jan 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Just. So good.
Aug 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
A promising debut collection of poetry. I loved many of these poems.
Simon Barraclough
Jul 29, 2019 rated it liked it
At times gripping and moving, at others plain and formless. Nearly lost me at times but brought me back as it built towards an impressive climax. Well worth checking out, as you already know.
Mark Ward
Dec 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: my-bookshelf
Fantastic, and a debut to boot!
Anne Walsh
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Mary Jean Chan is a Chinese-British poet, lecturer and editor. Her first poetry collection, Flèche, won the 2019 Costa Book Award in the Poetry category. She was also a recipient of the 2019 Eric Gregory Award for a collection by poets under the age of 30. Chan is a Ledbury Poetry Critic and co-editor of Oxford Poetry. She currently lives in London, and is Lecturer in Creative Writing (Poetry) at ...more
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