Mary Jean Chan. Photo: Hayley Madden for The Poetry Society.

Warm congratulations to Mary Jean Chan, winner of the 2018 Geoffrey Dearmer Prize with her poem ‘Flèche’ (an earlier version of which was published in The Poetry Review, Summer 2018, under the title ‘The Fencer’).

The Prize, which is awarded annually to a poem by a poet who hasn’t, at the time their work appears, published a full collection, was judged by the award-winning poet, critic and broadcaster Paul Farley. Paul Farley was himself the first winner of the Geoffrey Dearmer Prize.

Paul Farley said:

“‘The Fencer’ [now titled ‘Flèche’] is wonderfully poised and intelligent. This is the one I keep coming back to. Its episodic bladework brings to mind a phrase from MacNeice, where moonlight touches a wave to steel and ‘twists a gimlet in memory’. The speaker’s flashes of insight and recognition. A palpable hit. This is the one. It’s by Mary Jean Chan. Huge congratulations are in order.

“The invitation [to judge] said I was the first winner of the Geoffrey Dearmer Prize twenty years ago. Twenty years! I wish all of this year’s poets luck and adventures and discoveries in the years to come. What a privilege to be asked, what an unexpected joy to be doing this at all.”

Mary Jean Chan (b. 1990) was born and raised in Hong Kong. She is the author of A Hurry of English (ignition, 2017), a Poetry Book Society Pamphlet Choice, and Flèche (Faber, 2019), her debut full-length collection, which is a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. Mary Jean won second prize in the 2017 National Poetry Competition, and has been shortlisted in the Forward Prize Best Single Poem category twice. She is also a former winner of The Poetry Society’s Anne Born Prize. A Lecturer in Creative Writing (Poetry) at Oxford Brookes University, she lives in London. Mary Jean will be among the readers, alongside Ilya Kaminsky and Suji Kwock Kim, at the launch of the summer 2019 issue of The Poetry Review at The Poetry Café, London, on 3 July.

The Geoffrey Dearmer Prize was established in 1998 in memory of The Poetry Society’s oldest member. It is funded through the generosity of the Dearmer family in honour of the poet and former member Geoffrey Dearmer. The inaugural winner in 1998 was Paul Farley with ‘Keith Chegwin as Fleance’, chosen by Wendy Cope. More recent winners have included Raymond Antrobus, Laura Scott, Kayo Chingonyi, Kim Moore, Denise Saul, Michael Murphy (twice) and Sarah Wardle.