• About


    Mary Jean Chan (b. 1990) was born and raised in Hong Kong, and studied at Swarthmore College, the University of Oxford and Royal Holloway, University of London. She is the author of A Hurry of English, which was selected as the 2018 Poetry Book Society (PBS) Summer Pamphlet Choice. Her debut collection Flèche is published by Faber & Faber, and is a 2019 PBS Autumn Recommendation. The title poem, 'Flèche', won the 2018 Poetry Society Geoffrey Dearmer Prize. Poems from her collection have recently been featured as "Poem of the Week" in The Guardian and "Poem of the Month" in Guardian Review.


    In 2016, Mary Jean won the Oxford Brookes International Poetry Competition in the English as an Additional Language category. In 2017, she won the Poetry Society's Anne Born Prize and the Poetry and Psychoanalysis Competition, and came Second in the UK's National Poetry Competition. She was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem in 2017, becoming the youngest shortlistee in the Prizes' history. She is currently shortlisted for the 2019 Forward Prize for Best Single Poem, and is the recipient of an Eric Gregory Award. Mary Jean recently judged the 2019 Poetry Business New Poets Prize, and is co-judge of the 2019 Stephen Spender Prize for Poetry in Translation.


    Mary Jean was named as one of the UK's 8 Ledbury Poetry Critics in 2018, and has since written reviews for The Guardian, The Poetry Review, Poetry London and elsewhere. Her critical work has appeared in The Journal of American Studies, Wild Court and Modern Poetry in Translation. An editor of Oxford Poetry, advisory board member at the Poetry Translation Centre and member of the Folio Prize Academy, Mary Jean is Lecturer in Creative Writing (Poetry) at Oxford Brookes University and lives in London.

  • Poetry Book Society Recommendation


    Faber & Faber

    4 July 2019



    Flèche (the French word for ‘arrow’) is an offensive technique commonly used in fencing, a competitive sport of the poet’s young adult years. 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 20th century China are sensitively threaded through the book in an eight-part poetic sequence. 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.

  • PAMPhlet

    Poetry Book Society Summer Pamphlet Choice (2018)

    A Hurry of English



    Praise for A Hurry of English:


    Chan is an assured writer in many forms. Her art is both fastidious and direct. - Alison Brackenbury


    Sparkling and vulnerable...the arrival of an essential new voice. - Sarah Howe

  • Anthologies

    Selected Publications

    Published by Faber & Faber (2018)

    My poem "//" (shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem) appears here.

    Published by Carcanet Press (2018)

    A selection of my work appears here.

    Published by Boiler House Press (2018)

    Two of my poems, "Hybridity" and "Dress", appear here.

    Published by Bad Betty Press (2018)

    Two of my poems, "Dragon Hill Spa" and "Rise and Shine", appear here.

    Published by Pan Macmillan Children's Books (2018)

    My poem "Practice" appears here.

    Published by Verve Poetry Press (2018)

    My poem "A Lover's Manual" appears here.

    Published by Faber & Faber (2018)

    My poem "Truce" appears here.

    Published by Valley Press (2019)

    My poem "Dress" appears here.

    Set Me On Fire: A Poem for Every Kind of Feeling

    Published by Doubleday UK (forthcoming)

    My poem "They Would Have All That" appears here.

    Contemporary Poetry from Great Britain & Northern Ireland

    Published by Platypus Press (forthcoming)

    My poem "Song" appears here.

    Tell Me the Truth About Life: 100 Poems that Matter

    Published by Michael O' Mara Books/Forward Arts Foundation (forthcoming)

    My poem "what my mother (a poet) might say" appears here.

    Published by Faber & Faber (forthcoming)

    My poem "The Window" (shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem) appears here.

  • Articles & Essays

    Selected Publications

    Modern Poetry in Translation:

    The Best of World Poetry (2018)

    Wild Court, the English Department of

    King's College London (2017)

  • Appearances



    22 Jan: 20th Century & Contemporary Literature Graduate Seminar, Faculty of English, University of Cambridge

    8 Feb: Faber & Faber at 90, Readings by Mary Jean Chan & Richard Scott, National Portrait Gallery, London

    22 Feb: 40 Years of Gay's the Word Bookshop, A Celebration, The British Library, London

    8 Mar: Border Crossings, StAnza 2019, Scotland's International Poetry Festival, St Andrews

    20 Mar: The National Poetry Competition 40th Anniversary Readings, Kings Place, London

    25 Mar: Readings at the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Poetry, The House of Lords, Westminster, London

    25 Apr: AWPI Keynote Poetry Reading by Mary Jean Chan, Humanities Institute, University College Dublin

    26 Apr: AWPI Plenary Roundtable on the PhD in Creative Writing, Humanities Institute, University College Dublin

    3 May: Keats Bicentenary Readings with Rachael Allen, Mary Jean Chan & Isabel Galleymore, Keats House, London

    12 June: Mary Jean Chan, Sarah Howe & Jennifer Wong in Conversation with Dorothy Wang, The Poetry Cafe, London

    14 June: An Evening of Poetry: Jay Bernard’s Surge & Mary Jean Chan’s Flèche, Greenwich Book Festival, London

    15 June: Roundtable on Canons and Values in Contemporary Literary Studies, University of Southampton

    26 June: National Poetry Library Lates with Mary Jean Chan & Keith Jarrett, Hayward Gallery Cafe, London

    3 July: The Poetry Review Summer Readings with Ilya Kaminsky & Suji Kwock Kim, The Poetry Cafe, London

    5 July: Launch of Debut Collection Flèche with Will Harris & Sarah Howe, The London Review Bookshop, London

    11 July: Ambit Magazine 60th Anniversary Celebration Readings (Bumper Issue 237), VO Curations, London

    12 July: Readings from Jay Bernard's Surge and Mary Jean Chan's Flèche, Gay's the Word Bookshop, London

    17 July: Launch of Debut Collection Flèche in Conversation with Daisy Johnson, Blackwell's Westgate, Oxford

    24 July: Readings by Fiona Benson & Mary Jean Chan, John Hewitt International Summer School, NI, Armagh

    3 Aug: The 2018/19 New Poets Prize Winners with Mary Jean Chan, Anthony Burgess Foundation, Manchester

    8 Aug: Amelia Abraham & Mary Jean Chan in Conversation, Burley Fisher Books, London

    4 Sept: Guest Reader, Towards a Collection with Tom Chivers & Sarah Hesketh, Arvon, Totleigh Barton

    11 Sept: Behind the Mask, Another Mask: A Corrupted Poetry Series Event, October Gallery, London

    13 Sept: Guest Reader, Launch of After the Formalities by Anthony Anaxagorou, Rich Mix, London

    21 Sept: Readings by Mary Jean Chan & Luke Kennard, Milton Keynes Literary Festival, Milton Keynes

    24 Sept: Readings by Mona Arshi, Mary Jean Chan & Jacqueline Saphra, Waterstones (Gower Street), London

    1 Oct: The Faber & Faber 90th Anniversary Readings: A Poetry Celebration, The Bloomsbury Theatre, London

    11 Oct: Debut Poets Showcase curated by Anthony Anaxagorou, Cheltenham Literature Festival, Cheltenham

    14 Oct: Readings by Mary Jean Chan & Will Harris, Cafe Writers, The Louis Marchesi, Norwich

    20 Oct: The 2019 Forward Prizes for Poetry Awards Ceremony, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank, London

    21 Oct: Readings by Mary Jean Chan, Chen Chen & Jay G Ying, The University of Liverpool, Liverpool

    28 Oct: Readings by Mary Jean Chan & (Details TBC), The Coronet Theatre, Notting Hill, London

    17 Nov: Readings Mary Jean Chan & Hannah Sullivan, The Woodstock Poetry Festival, Woodstock

    18 Nov: Guest Reader, Advanced Poetry Workshop with Kathryn Maris, The Poetry School, London

    28 Nov: Oh Mother Where Art Thou: An Evening of Poetry and Music, The London Library, London




    24 Jan: The Ledbury Emerging Poetry Critics, University of Birmingham

    8 Feb: Poetry London Spring 2018 Readings, Kings Place, London

    15 Feb: Lodestone Poets at Tottenham Court Road | Waterstones, London

    22 Feb: International Mother Languages Day, Anthony Burgess Foundation, Manchester

    27 Feb: Race and Equality (An Evening of Poetry and Film), King's College London

    7 Mar: ignitionpress pamphlet launch, The Poetry Cafe, London

    8 Mar: ignitionpress pamphlet launch, Society Cafe, Oxford

    25 Mar: ignitionpress pamphlet launch, The Oxford Literary Festival, Oxford

    12 Apr: ignitionpress pamphlet launch, Lighthouse Bookshop, Edinburgh

    23 Apr: Celebration of Adrienne Rich with Poet in the City, Wilton's Music Hall, London

    30 Apr: Carcanet New Poetries VII Launch, The London Review Bookshop, London

    2 May: An Evening of Faber Poetry Readings (Spring 2018), Bloomsbury House, London

    4 May: Carcanet New Poetries VII Launch, The Old Library, All Souls College, Oxford

    28 May: Reading with Amy Key, Claudine Toutoungi & Eleni Cay, the Troubadour, London

    30 May: Reading with Will Harris, Theophilus Kwek & Jennifer Tsai, 11 Bedford Square, London

    31 May: Reading at the UN Human Rights Symposium, The American School in London

    5 June: Out-Spoken Live at the 100 Club, 100 Oxford Street, London

    8 June: The Forward Prizes at the Second Home Literary Festival, Holland Park, London

    16 June: "Poets Poets" Day 2018 (Readings & Discussion), UCL English Department, London

    18 June: Poetry Reading Series at Bradfield College, Bradfield, Berkshire

    20 June: Rogers, Coleridge & White Literary Salon, RCW Offices, London

    30 June: Poetry and Psychoanalysis Conference, The Institute of Psychoanalysis, London

    5 July: The National Poetry Competition Winners, Ledbury Poetry Festival, Ledbury

    6 July: Modern Poetry in Translation with Richard Scott & Jennifer Tsai, Ledbury Poetry Festival, Ledbury

    8 July: 20 minutes with Mary Jean Chan, The Ledbury Poetry Festival, Ledbury

    12 July: Launch of The Dictionary of Rare and Precious Words, Oxford Spires Academy, Oxford

    19 July: Reading with Richard Scott and Sophie Robinson, Islington | Waterstones, London

    25 July: The Poetry Book Society Summer Showcase, Southbank Centre, London

    6 Sept: Modern Poetry in Translation London Launch, Gay's the Word, London

    7 Sept: The White Review Poetry Salon with Raymond Antrobus and Rachel Long, Burley Fisher Books, London

    30 Sept: The Echo Chamber with Paul Farley, the BBC Contains Strong Language Festival, Hull

    16 Oct: An Evening of Poetry and Classical Music, Goodenough College, London

    27 Oct: Race and Poetry and Poetics in the UK (RAPAPUK) Conference, Queen's College, Cambridge

    3 Nov: "Queer Studio" with Richard Scott and guest readers, Poetry in Aldeburgh, Suffolk

    10 Nov: Reading with ignitionpress poets, the Woodstock Poetry Festival, Oxford

    29 Nov: Reading and launch of Wretched Strangers, Waterstones, Oxford

    10 Dec: Reading with Eley Williams and Gulsum Altinbas, Sid Motion Gallery, London

  • Poetry Workshops

    Spring-Summer 2019

    16 March 2019, 2-5pm, The Poetry Society

    Join Mary Jean Chan in an interactive creative writing workshop which will hone in on some of the victorious poems from the past 40 years of the National Poetry Competition. Suitable for all writing abilities (aged 18+).

    23 Apr – 2 Jul 2019, 6 weeks, Tues 7-9pm, Royal Festival Hall

    Explore and be inspired by the work of Carolyn Forché, Adrienne Rich, Sharon Olds, Kei Miller, Terrance Hayes, Richard Scott and others as they bear witness to a breathtaking range of human experience. Suitable for all writing abilities (aged 18+).

  • Media


    31 March 2012

    What Makes a Good Society?

    ignitionpress pamphlet launch (8 March 2018)

    Poem: 'Long Distance' (A Hurry of English)