BOOK REVIEW: MARY JEAN CHAN – FLÉCHE

Today, it’s another review but something a little bit different – poetry! Today, it’s all about the award-winning poetry collection from Mary Jean Chan, Fléche.

With everything going on in the world right now, I’m finding myself being more creative and looking at different ways to be creative and one of those is poetry. Today, I’m talking all about Fléche which is a brilliant collection of poetry. But first, here’s the blurb:

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. The result is a series of poems that feel urgent and true, dazzling and devastating by turns.

I love poetry but I don’t read enough of it, if that makes any sense. This is a poetry collection that I have been meaning to read for a while but it’s never been the right time or I’m not in the mood for poetry but I found myself really enjoying it lately so I ordered a copy on Hive and I read it in a single sitting as I found the poems beautifully written and interesting.

Something I love to read about – in any form – is queerness and this collection explores it beautifully. The poems feel deeply personal, the writing is painful, lyrical and beautifully constructed. I found it so beautiful that it made me say to myself, why didn’t I read this sooner? There’s no wonder there is so much love and admiration for this collection, it’s urgent, full of humour and heart and it stays with you for days after reading it.

I think, like most poetry collections, they need to be read and read again. There were some poems that I didn’t fully “get” when I first read it but I just know I’m going to turn back to this collection again and again. There’s no wonder it has been winning awards!

Overall, a brilliant collection that explores a wide range of important, brilliant, urgent themes with the most lyrical, tender, wonderful voice. I’ve really enjoyed exploring more into poetry – something that I will review more on the blog! I’m also going to start collecting the Faber poetry books because they are just so gorgeous and simple – I love the colours. I’ll be posting a review of another poetry collection very soon, too…

Have you read Fléche? What did you think? What’s your favourite poet/poetry collection? Let me know in the comments!

Thank you,

Corey.

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