Every month, we shine the light on a book from our collection – one which is new to the library, which has been particularly enjoyed by a borrower, recommended by a volunteer, or which seems salient to the month’s events or happenings. To see the archive of past books of the month (formerly book of the week), click here.
The current book of the month is…
Flèche by Mary Jean Chan
Mary Jean Chan‘s debut pamphlet, A Hurry Of English was produced by Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre’s ignitionpress. This summer her first full collection, Flèche, was published by Faber & Faber. A flèche, in case you were wondering, is a fencing move – a sudden, explosive lunge against one’s opponent, a surprise attack, and a risk which can leave the fencer exposed (the word also suggesting the vulnerability of ‘flesh’). Chan’s collection holds this same balance of safety and strength, woundedness and attack.
Tension runs through the poems as Chan explores her queerness, her relationship with her Chinese heritage, and in particular her relationship with her mother. Some of the most striking moments in her poems are the navigations of her mother’s love and the search for her mother’s acceptance of her queer identity. This is traced through a Conversation with Fantasy Mother, reflections on the woman who raised her mother in Wet Nurse, and in Always, Chan’s “lips wishing / they could kiss those mouths / you would approve of. She recalls her mother asking “Do you ever write about me?” answering “Mother, what do you think? / You are always where I begin”. There are secrets and miscommunications and misunderstandings but most powerfully, love.
The poems are rich in the imagery of combined worlds: multilingualism, cultures meeting and reacting, the agony of not belonging, and holding onto the safe spaces found. It is poetry which lunges and presses deep into the heart.