The Stationers' Company
The City of London Livery Company for the Communications and Content Industries


28 MAY 2020

Stationers’ Poetry Book Society  Weekly Poem - Number  6

Faber have very kindly given permission for Mary Jean Chan's poem,  our sixth "locked down"suggestion by the Poetry Book Society, to be used on our website. Members will find it in their own area of the website and should log in and read it there along with all sorts of other items pertinent to the lock down!


Mary Jean Chan wrote this poem to be seen on the page in a very precise way so we reproduce it here as an  image.


From Flèche by Mary Jean Chan, published by Faber & Faber. Available here with 25% off for PBS members.

Although written long before lockdown, ‘Safe Space II’ by Hong Kong born poet Mary Jean Chan eerily echoes our current anxieties: “Wash your hands. Rub soap into foam / Into lost hands.” In a recent Guardian article Chan described growing up during the SARs outbreak and her recent realisation of its impact on this poem. Despite this dark legacy, there is something meditative and truly cathartic about these instructions, urging us to focus on the running tap, the safety of soap and the locked bathroom door against the wildness beyond.

Mary Jean Chan's 'dazzling and devastating' debut Flèche explores cultural differences, multilingualism, queerness and mother-daughter relationships. It was awarded a PBS Recommendation, won the 2019 Costa Book Award for Poetry and was shortlisted for the 2020 Dylan Thomas and Jhalak Prizes. Chan has twice been shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem in 2017 and 2019. She was guest co-editor of The Poetry Review Spring 2020, and is co-judge of the 2020 Stephen Spender Prize for Poetry in Translation. She is a Lecturer in Creative Writing at Oxford Brookes University.

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