Raisa Tolchinsky at Harvard Book Store


Glass Jaw: Poems

in conversation with ANNETTE YOSHIKO REED


April 18, 2024
7:00 PM ET


Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138


This event is free; no tickets are required.

Harvard Book Store welcomes RAISA TOLCHINSKY—poet and boxer—for a discussion of her debut poetry collection Glass Jaw. She will be joined in conversation by ANNETTE YOSHIKO REED—Stendahl Chair of Divinity at Harvard University and Muay Thai fighter. 

About Glass Jaw

Striking and big-hearted, Glass Jaw depicts the grit and glamor of women’s boxing based on the poet's time training as a fighter in New York City. Beginning on the ropes, fighting back against the limitations of gender, Raisa Tolchinsky situates us within the dynamic context of the boxing gym, through both a chorus of named women boxers and a single fighter battling for her selfhood. In a Dantean reimagining, we follow the boxer as she descends into the hellish “rings” of an abusive relationship with her coach. In a count-down from 34 to 1, sputtering at times, the fighter gets closer and closer to the heart of her brutal, solitary metamorphosis. Winner of the 2022 Lexi Rudnitsky First Book Prize in Poetry, Glass Jaw explores a quest as spiritual as it is physical through poems that are muscular, musical, ecstatic. 

Praise for Glass Jaw

"'Physical torture, writes Elaine Scarry in The Body in Pain, 'is language-destroying.'  Glass Jaw tracks a young woman seeking a new voice through the gendered and punishing inferno of the boxing ring: 'Before the ring I made a life out of language / but there were places it would not reach— / the ring needed no words, no stone / to crown me in concussion.'  In poems as vulnerable and tensile as glass, Tolchinsky bravely frees the wired-shut jaw of abuse dividing “a body and the rest of its life.”  " —Lisa Russ Spaar, author of Madrigalia: New & Selected Poems

"“What a stunning debut from an essential new voice! Raisa Tolchinsky writes with the virtuosity of a true fighter, transporting us, via her profound lyrics, to the twilit world of the boxing ring and beneath, to Dantean realms of deep reckoning and transcendent song. Glass Jaw sparkles with rare intensity; let this book light your way through darkness, to the stars.”" —Kiki Petrosino, author of White Blood: A Lyric of Virginia

"Glass Jaw is a potent inquiry into the brutality and beauty of fighting, the 'underworld of secret choir' that can be the site of both suffering and salvation. Raisa Tolchinsky’s lines arrive with the swiftness and solidness of a punch, leaving devastation and wonder in their wake. An astonishing, unforgettable collection.”" - Laura van den Berg, author of I Hold a Wolf by the Ears

Annette Yoshiko Reed
Annette Yoshiko Reed

Annette Yoshiko Reed

Annette Yoshiko Reed is Krister Stendahl Chair of Divinity and Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Harvard Divinity School. Her research focuses on religion, identity, and difference, especially among and between ancient Jews and Christians, and her most recent book is Demons, Angels, and Writing in Ancient Judaism (2020). Prof. Reed is also a Muay Thai fighter (1-1), training out of Five Points Academy in New York and Wai Kru in Boston; last summer, she won the 2023 Thai Boxing Association (TBA) championship in her bracket. In December 2023, she completed the StrongFirst SFG1 certification, and she now teaches kettlebells in her free time.

Raisa Tolchinsky
Raisa Tolchinsky

Raisa Tolchinsky

Raisa Tolchinsky has published poems in Boston Review, Kenyon Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, and many other journals and magazines. She earned her MFA in poetry from the University of Virginia and her B.A. from Bowdoin College. She was the 2022–2023 George Bennett Writer-in- Residence at Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, and is currently a student at Harvard Divinity School. Previously, Raisa lived in Chicago, Bologna (Italy), and New York City, where she trained as a boxer. 

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