Flèche

Flèche

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...

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Title:Flèche
Author:Mary Jean Chan
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Edition Language:English

Flèche Reviews

  • Erica G

    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!

  • Kaitlin

    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.

  • Cia

    MARY JEAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Julia

    Outstanding first collection from Mary Jean Chan dealing with sexuality, family and acceptance/non acceptance. I found it a compelling read.

  • Serge Neptune

    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).

  • Jay Moran

    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.

    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

    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.

    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 other half, and with herself as she realises her sexuality, grapples with her identity, and attempts to mould herself into an individual who can exist/be loved by all three. Her mother struggles to cope with her daughter's homosexuality, and this is heartbreakingly captured in moments such as this:

    (from the poem Names I, pg.34)

    Chan brilliantly depicts the splitting of herself, be it in regards to her sexuality or her heritage (she grew up in China and now lives in the UK), which she discusses in poems such as Rules for a Chinese Child Buying Stationary in a London Bookshop (pg.13) and Written in a Historically White Space I (pg.43). The poems feel so private, so fragile in their intimacy that it's quite startling how deep she goes, how much she reveals to us, and it's such a beautiful reading experience.

    Compelling and effervescent,

    is an outstanding first collection and I can't wait to see what Chan writes in the future.

    My Mother's Fables

    Wet Nurse

    Practice

    Magnolias

    Conversations with Fantasy Mother

    the five stages

    The Heart of the Matter

    The Window

    what my mother (a poet) might say (I)

    At the Castro

    Rise and Shine

    beauty

    Wish

    Dragon Hill Spa

    Written in a Historically White Space (II)

    what my mother (a poet) might say (II)

  • Paul

    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.

  • M-L

    A promising debut collection of poetry. I loved many of these poems.

  • rosamund

    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

    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 poems does not accept her daughter's queer identity or relationship with another woman, and the evocation of love, distrust and grief are teased out in an emotional and careful way. The collection also explores love and gives a portrait of a relationship between two women who have learnt to be tender towards one another and place an emphasis on trust, such as in

    Such asking becomes routine,

    almost like walking down the aisle of a supermarket

    at evening, but it is what they do best. Beyond desire:

    two clasped bodies holding the heart's ache at bay.

    This is also a collection about trauma: the mother in these poems has experienced loss and famine during the Mao years, and violence at the hands of the Red Guards. The poet writes four very moving poems called "Safe Space", about seeking areas of safety when the world feels too frightening. Chan's exploration of trauma is both tender and raw, an unflinching look at the ways in which we are psychologically wounded, and how trauma can be passed through families. Chan's language is usually very straightforward, and her poems use short lines and precise imagery: the poems are easy to read quickly, but bear rereading. This is an important collection that gives a window into a particular experience, but should also be meaningful to a lot of people. I recommend it highly.

  • Simon Barraclough

    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.

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