Barroom boxing circuit inspires author’s work

3 mins read

Jaed Coffin’s passion for travel has led him from his hometown of Brunswick, Maine, to Alaska, Mexico, Spain and Thailand. Now, Coffin has returned to New England to begin work on his second book and first work of fiction, Roughhouse Friday, inspired by his time boxing in Southeast Alaska’s barroom circuit.

Jaed Coffin

As a middleweight fighter, Coffin joined a community of men who threw punches over dance floors in dank bars. He met a diverse cast of characters, many of whom traveled from other continents to join the region’s labor force.

Coffin said that he hopes to make his upcoming novel “enormous” as he creates a world for his characters.

Last year Coffin, 28, published the memoir, A Chant to Soothe Wild Elephants, about his 2001 journey to Thailand, where he studied and became a Buddhist monk.

Global adventures like these filled most of Coffin’s early 20s.

 “I lived in ways that my mother probably wouldn’t have approved of— sleeping under bridges, hoboing around, and hitchhiking. It opened up my eyes to cultures, but more than anything it gave me such a freedom and creativity with how I understand myself,” he said.

Growing up, Coffin fantasized about life outside of Maine, yet between his travels the author returned home to write and save money while working as a lobsterman and living at home.

“There’s such an identity here that I think it’s really important to have that feeling of belonging somewhere, so that when you go out into the world, you know where you began,” Coffin said. “It’s really an empowering thing to have in your back pocket.”

This summer he helped run The Portland Hive, a summer writing program for teenagers in Portland, Maine. Coffin has also taught at the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast program, where he received his MFA in creative writing. After toiling in many trades, Coffin feels lucky to be able to work in his field helping other writers.

As a young author, he understands how difficult it can be to get published. He even gives out his personal email at readings and offers to read the work of aspiring writers. Speaking openly about his career and life, Coffin joked, “I’ve always loved to talk about myself. I wish I was more humble than that.”

This fall he began a teaching fellowship at Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts. Married and caring for his first child, Coffin’s adventures seemed to have calmed down, but he added, “I am realizing, especially with a child, that the world is a pretty interesting place.”

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