• About


    Mary Jean is a bi-lingual poet from Hong Kong.


    A recent graduate from Swarthmore College and the University of Oxford, Mary Jean is passionate about the intersection between politics and poetry, as well as other forms of literary expression. Her work has been published in The Poetry Review, Bare Fiction, The Scores, Tongue: A Journal of Writing & Art, The London Magazine, Ambit Magazine, The Rialto, Oxford Poetry, Callaloo Journal, The Kindling, 154, Bedford Square 9, Cadaverine Magazine, The Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, Cha: An Asian Literary Journal and In Protest: 150 Poems for Human Rights.


    In 2016, Mary Jean won the Oxford Brookes International Poetry Competition (ESL category). Mary Jean's poetry has also been recently shortlisted for the 2016 London Magazine Poetry Prize, the 2016 Rialto Open Pamphlet Competition, and the 2016 Resurgence Eco-Poetry Prize. More recently, she won the 2017 Poetry Society Members' Competition, judged by R.A. Villanueva.


    A former TEDx speaker, Mary Jean was twice selected as one of Oxford's emerging poetic voices by the Oxford University Poetry Society. During her MA, she served as Vice-President of the Oxford University Poetry Society from 2014-2015. A former Callaloo and VONA Fellow, Mary Jean received the 2015 University of London MA Creative Writing Prize.


    Mary Jean is currently pursuing her PhD in Creative Writing at Royal Holloway, University of London (2016-2018). Her academic article on Claudia Rankine's Citizen: An American Lyric was published by The Journal of American Studies (Cambridge University Press, 2017). She is now a Research Associate at the Royal Holloway Poetics Research Centre, and is a Co-Editor at Oxford Poetry.


    Mary Jean is represented by the literary agency Rogers, Coleridge and White (RCW). Her agent is Emma Paterson.

  • Poems

    Selected Publications


    Shanghai, 1966


    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

    tried to translate my poems

    with a bilingual dictionary.


    Always the pen wishing

    it could re-write the years

    you fled from, those Red-


    Guarded days and nightmares.

    Always the lump in my throat:

    how you waited every evening


    at all the bus stops in the city

    for the grandfather I would

    never meet. Always the lips


    wishing they could kiss those

    mouths you would approve of.


    To sing the evening home, the lover prepares
    a pot of lentil stew – her phone lighting up to
    the news of love’s imminent arrival, imagining


    her lover’s footsteps across the swollen field,
    damp with longing, her lover’s steady hand
    gripping her smartphone to navigate towards


    some notion of home, their flat an unfamiliar
    place of worship, their bodies growing close
    and moving apart with the regularity of heart-


    beat, blood-breath. There the lover is, running to
    catch a bus she knows will take her somewhere
    so she can feel once again the sensation of lack –


    wondering at her lover’s motions throughout the flat,
    how her feet must press insistently on the floor with
    each step, how the orchid must have stretched itself


    a few millimetres overnight, how the stew must be
    whispering on the stove and the table set for dinner.
    The lovers are gentler with each other now because


    they have memorized each other’s fears like daily
    prayer: how too much salt brings back the years of
    loneliness, how a warm bath may be more necessary


    than a rough kiss after a day’s absence of tenderness.
    The lovers are gentler because they have grown too
    knowledgeable to love any other way. When one asks


    the other to fling her onto the bed, the lover might say:
    Do you actually want me to? And the lover might reply:
    No, I don’t. Such asking becomes routine, almost like


    walking down the aisle of a supermarket at evening,
    but it is what they do best as lovers. Beyond desire
    and its petty dramas, the two lovers will have their


    tapestry of days and nights, their hands tempered by
    love, clasped bodies holding their wounds at bay.

  • Academic Publications

    The Journal of American Studies, Cambridge University Press (published May 2017)

  • Events

    Upcoming Readings, Panels and Talks


    July 2017: Interviewer, Literary Salon with Helen Mort, English Shared Futures Conference, Newcastle.

    July 2017: Panelist with Hannah Lowe and Jennifer Wong, English Shared Futures Conference, Newcastle.

    July 2017: Reading, Transatlantic Poetry with Chen Chen, curated by R.A. Villanueva.

    May 2017: Panelist, Poetry Across the Atlantic Since 2000, Rothermere American Institute, University of Oxford.

    May 2017: Reading, Free Verse: The Poetry Magazine Fair.

    May 2017: Moderator, Creating China: Creative Writing Across Genres, China Exchange.

    Apr 2017: Reading, The Poetry Review Spring Issue Launch, The House of Illustration Gallery.

    Apr 2017: Reading, Launch of Bare Fiction Magazine Issue 9, Waterstones Birmingham.

    Apr 2017: Reading, Launch of Rishi Dastidar’s Ticker-Tape, George Street Social, Oxford.

    Mar 2017: Reading and Panelist, Poetics of Home Conference, The Institute of English Studies.

    Jan 2017: Reading, Keats Celebration on the Eve of St. Agnes, Guildhall Art Gallery.

  • Conferences

    Organizer: Mary Jean Chan

    Poetry Panel on Diversity in British Publishing


    Date: February 24th, 2017 (Friday)

    Time: 2-4PM

    Address: 11 Bedford Square, WC1B 3RF


    This poetry panel will feature distinguished members of the poetry and publishing sector in the UK, who shall discuss recent diversity trends in British poetry publishing.




    Dr. Nathalie Teitler, Director of the Complete Works Program

    Kayo Chingonyi, Poet

    Emma Paterson, Literary Agent at Rogers, Coleridge and White (RCW)

    Kish Widyaratna, Editorial Assistant at Picador and Contributing Editor at The White Review


    An Evening of Poetry on Chinese Identit(ies), Place and Politics in the 21st Century


    Date: January 27th, 2017 (Friday)

    Address: Goodenough College, Mecklenburgh Square, WC1N 2AB


    This poetry event aims to interrogate notions of Chineseness, in relation to concepts of home, place and diaspora. There will be a reading from poets, followed by a discussion and Q&A session.




    Sarah Howe, Poet

    Hannah Lowe, Poet

    Jennifer Wong, Poet

  • A Tapestry of Narratives: Conversations through Poetry 


    31 March, 2012

    Conference theme: What Makes a Good Society?

    Watching the Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's TED talk, "The Danger of a Single Story", was a powerful reminder for me that ideas about what constitutes a "good" society can only emerge from the tapestry of narratives that we weave everyday of our lives. In this TEDx talk, I use poetry to explore the importance of genuine discourse and dialogue in furthering our daily attempts at building a better society. I was selected to join the conference speaker line-up in March 2012 after winning the TEDxSwarthmore Student Challenge.

  • Contact 

    I am available for writing commissions (poetry, prose, speeches), panels, addresses, workshops, and collaborative projects with fellow writers and artists. Please expect a response within 24 hours. Thank you for reaching out!