"Rising star" of British poetry and Oxford Brookes University lecturer to judge Booker Prize in 2023

Photo of Dr Mary Jean Chan
Image credited to 'Forward Prizes for Poetry - Adrian Pope'.

A poet and senior lecturer in creative writing at Oxford Brookes University has been recently announced as a judge for the Booker Prize 2023.

Dr Mary Jean Chan is Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing (Poetry) at Oxford Brookes, and on Tuesday (13 December) was revealed as one of five judges for the prestigious literary award given each year for the best novel written in English and published in the United Kingdom or Ireland. 

A Hong Kong-Chinese poet, lecturer, editor and critic, Dr Chan is the author of Flèche, which won the 2019 Costa Book Award for Poetry, and was shortlisted in 2020 for the International Dylan Thomas Prize, the John Pollard Foundation International Poetry Prize, the Jhalak Prize and the Seamus Heaney Centre First Collection Poetry Prize. 

Dr Chan said: “I'm deeply honoured to be joining the Booker Prize as a judge for 2023. It was a wonderful surprise to be invited to join the panel, especially as a poet.

“I believe it's important to involve different kinds of writers on judging panels so we can bring our various sensibilities to bear on our selections. Poets are highly attentive to the economy of language, use of punctuation, and how imagery functions in a piece of prose, so I'll hope to highlight these aspects during the judging process.”

Dr Chan, whose second poetry collection, Bright Fear, is due to be published by Faber in August 2023, said they will judge each novel on its own terms. 

Chan said: “I think the key thing for a judge is to avoid foisting their own opinions of what a book should be doing onto a work of fiction, but rather, to bring their full attention to the story they are immersed in. That said, I do love stories centred on human relationships, and those which, to quote James Baldwin, offer the reader ‘a sentence as clean as a bone’. I'm keen to be surprised, and to have my expectations for what fiction can do challenged or even transformed.”

Professor Daniel Lea, Interim Head of the School of English and Modern Languages and Professor of Contemporary Literature at Oxford Brookes, added: “I am absolutely delighted for Mary Jean that their significant contribution to contemporary writing has been recognised with this role. All of us in the School of English and Modern Languages are thrilled for Mary Jean and proud that they will be representing Oxford Brookes on an international stage.”

The winner of the £50,000 Booker Prize will be announced in the autumn of 2023. Last year the prize was won by Shehan Karunatilaka for his novel The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida. Past winners include Margaret Atwood, Julian Barnes, Hilary Mantel and Kazuo Ishiguro. 

Novelist Esi Edugyan, twice-shortlisted for the Booker Prize, will chair the judging panel, with the other judges being Adjoa Andoh, actor, writer and director; James Shapiro, Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University and author specialising in Shakespeare; and Robert Webb, actor and writer. 

Oxford Brookes’ Special Collections based in the University library at its Headington Campus has been the permanent home to the Booker Prize Archive since 2003. The archive encompasses the administrative history of the prizes from 1968 to date and includes correspondence, publicity material and copies of both the longlisted and shortlisted novels.