Mary Jean Chan

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Photo: SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Mary Jean Chan (b. 1990, Hong Kong) has been a Fellow of Callaloo and VONA, and is currently a Research Associate at the Royal Holloway Poetics Research Centre at the University of London. She writes that being shortlisted for a Forward Prize ‘means a lot in terms of feeling as if I have been accepted into a community of writers whose work I deeply admire… [poets] the Forward Prizes have been instrumental in promoting’, including Kei Miller, Vahni Capildeo and Christian Campbell.

Chan writes that her shortlisted poem ‘//’ was ‘born out of an intensely personal experience, and also informed by ruminations on the state of mental health amongst LGBTQ youths in a city that I flee from, yet constantly wish to return to.’ Its rolling couplets manage the trick of being simultaneously intimate, passionate and politically widely-scoped: ‘How many / times have you and I wondered about leaving our bodies / behind, the way many of us have already left?’ In this, perhaps, there is an echo of Adrienne Rich, a poet Chan describes as ‘opening up a whole new world for me in which poetry was not only enjoyable, but vital to life’.