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.
"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
"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. A stunning, unforgettable collection.”
- Laura van den Berg, author of The Third Hotel
“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