I really like Mary Jean Chan’s “Flèche” – even though, based on my track record of how I respond to a reasonably large proportion of modern verse, I shouldn’t…
Why is that?
Two main reasons, both normally bête noires. The first is the significant experimentation in form (especially how the pieces appear on the page) which I believe is often nothing more than a gimmick to make up for a lack of substance. And the second is the subject matter, preoccupations with a) being gay, and b) race/colour (in Chan’s case being non-white in a ‘white world’).
On that basis I should surely have dismissed “Flèche” out of hand.
But I can’t. And the reason I can’t is that Chan handles her material, her form, and her subjects with a subtle, assured and understated touch. None of it is shoved into your face with the kind of aggressive challenge that seems all too prevalent with writers tackling similar themes, emotions, frustrations [cf. “The Tradition” or “Playtime”]. Not only that, there are some truly lovely images in the book, and some entirely rewarding poems – like “Names (II)”. She seems to paint poetic pictures and allows you, as her reader, to decipher them, to make up your own mind.
Isn’t that what poetry is supposed to do, to offer up a sketch of sorts and give the reader sufficient latitude to colour it in?
There is no ‘shouting’ in “Flèche” and I heartily recommend it.