4 out of 5 stars

Our character and is made up from the things that have shaped our life; family, culture, friends, place, education and our sexuality all contribute to our multifaceted personality. These factors can be strained further when you do not fit within a conventional box in the society that you live in.

For Mary Jean Chan growing up in Hong Kong the strains of moving away from her deeply traditional culture and language and telling the world and her mother she was queer was a moment that wrenched their relationship in so many different ways. This collection written in and eight-part poetic sequence is her response.

The words Flèche and flesh are key to the themes running through this book. The first is a fencing term and is her offence against a world that often seeks to attack differences; the second term represents the vulnerabilities of being open to that world.


all the metaphors

Have failed the sea

Is infinitely breakable

My mother is raging

the way waves do


I thought that these were beautifully written poems that play with the poetic form on the page. What is very evident thought is her vulnerability as she stands against the tide of her culture, she resists the pressure to conform, she grows in inner strength. I was fortunate to have won this with the others on the Costa shortlist from 2019 and I must say that they have all been good so far.


Three Favourite Poems


At The Castro


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