Mary Jean Chan: Bright Fear


WhenFriday, 23 August 2024
From6.00pm – 7.00pm
WhereNational Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, Pōneke
Address70 Molesworth Street, Thorndon, Pōneke


In March 2020, when the world was in the early and unknowable days of the pandemic, poet Mary Jean Chan wrote in The Guardian that “something about the specificity of poetry allows it to crystalise experience, as if one were pausing time.” Their latest collection, Bright Fear, hurtles us back to that time and takes us even further— to moments of grief and joy and tenderness. Throughout, Chan offers us new and galvanising ways to "withstand the quotidian tug- / of-war between terror and love". Named a Guardian Best Poetry Book 2023 and recently shortlisted for the 2024 Dylan Thomas Prize, Bright Fear has been described by judge Tice Cin as “written with a quiet intimacy… gentle, inviting and formally inventive”.

This National Poetry Day, Mary Jean joins New Zealand Poet Laureate Chris Tse to discuss the complications of family, form, and the radical power of poetry.

“One of those rare poets who leave you looking up with a sense that you can engage even the smallest part of the world around you with a much greater intensity.” –​ PN Review


Mary Jean Chan is the author of Flèche, which was published by Faber & Faber in 2019. Flèche won the 2019 Costa Book Award for Poetry and was shortlisted for multiple prizes, including the 2020 International Dylan Thomas Prize and the 2020 Seamus Heaney Centre First Collection Poetry Prize. Bright Fear (Faber, 2023), Chan's second book, was shortlisted for the 2023 Forward Prize for Best Collection and the 2024 Writers’ Prize. In 2022, Chan co-edited the acclaimed anthology 100 Queer Poems with Andrew McMillan. A recent judge for the 2023 Booker Prize, Chan is currently the 2023-24 Judith E. Wilson Poetry Fellow at the University of Cambridge.

Chris Tse is New Zealand Poet Laureate for 2022-2025. He has published three poetry collections: the first, How to be Dead in a Year of Snakes, won the Jessie Mackay Award for Best First Book of Poetry in 2016 and the latest, Super Model Minority, was longlisted for the 2023 Ockham NZ Book Awards and was a finalist at the 35th Lambda Literary Awards.

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