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January 31, 2020


#Poetry Winner Costa Award for Poetry 2020

by N@ncy

  • Author: Mary Jean Chan (1990)
  • Title:  Flèche ( 50 poems 88 pg)
  • Genre: poems
  • Published: 2019
  • Trivia: 2019  winner Costa Book Award for Best collection Poetry
  • Trivia: 2020 longlist for Dylan Thomas Prize
  • List of Challenges 2020
  • Monthly plan




  1. I have been OUT of the poetry reading mode for many months.
  2. I feel very lucky that I discovered
  3. Flèche by Ms Chan to bring me back to poetry.
  4. This book gave me 88 pages of reflection
  5. …without the extra  300 pages
  6. I would have had to read if I had chosen a novel!
  7. Here are 50 love poems
  8. …for her family, mother and partner.


  1. A poem should work for you
  2. …if not, you don’t need this poem.
  3. It’s not your fault. It’s not you at all. It’s fine.
  4. Scrap it, ignore it and turn the page.
  5. Poetry gets to the heart of things.
  6. There must  be one poem that will stop your heart.
  7. Ms Chan’s poems  are a compact form
  8. in which the drama of a life is staged.
  9. The mother-daughter tense relationship is central.
  10. The love poem that stopped MY heart was
  11. “Always’



Do you ever write about me?
Mother, what do you think?
You are always where I begin.

Always the child who wanted to be
a boy so you could be spared
by your mother-in-law.

Always the ear that hears you
translating my poems
with a bilingual dictionary.

Always the pen dreaming
it could redeem the years
you fled from, those
Red-Guarded days
and nightmare

Always the mind’s eye tracing
your frantic footsteps
toward the grandfather
I would never meet.

Always the lips wishing
they could kiss those mouths
you would approve of.


  1. Multilingualism
  2. Queerness
  3. Post-colonialism
  4. Psychoanalysis
  5. Cultural history


  1. This was very clever….Ms Chan uses  terms found in the sport of fencing.
  2. It give the reader an indication what the poems will be about.
  3. Parry – defense – “push” aside a blade that is attacking
  4. Riposte – counter attack
  5. Corps-À-Corps – impasse – 2 fencers are engaged…neither can use her weapon
  6. Each section contains 16 poems.
  7. There are 2 introductory poems  – her mother is the narrator
  8. Title:  Flèche is an aggressive offensive
  9. fencing technique used with foil and épée.
  10. It also is homophone
  11. …when pronounced, seems similar to another word.
  12. In this case flesh found in the poem “Flèche”.


Last thoughts:

  1. Strong point: poems are short, one-page-ers
  2. …but don’t confuse length and density.
  3. Ms Chan conveys her ideas in a few words.
  4. “..I long for a landslide of the mind
    …so I can bury the moment”
  5. So much nuance…in just a line.
  6. I’ve read and reviewed at least 20 poetry collections (see blog)
  7. …and this book gets my HIGHEST  score!
  8. 50 poems….and I really liked 38
  9. …that’s 76%
  10. I haven’t read the other long listed books for
  11. the Dylan Thomas Award 2020…but this book
  12. …will be hard to beat!
  13. #Bravo
  14. Chapeau au bas…..Ms. Chan

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