5: Poem, Anna Margolin's "She of the Cold Marble Breasts," and photograph, Anna Margolin’s tombstone.
Margolin’s grave features an inscription of her poem “She of the Cold Marble Breasts,” one of two poetic epitaphs she published in her lifetime. The tombstone is thus simultaneously both literary text and concrete thing, and alludes to the idea of the self as a made-object, which is so strong in Margolin’s work.
This self-inscribed epitaph in effect gives the poet the last word: she creates her own painful legacy, one sensitive to the price of trauma and missed opportunities.
Suggested Activity: Compare the carefree exuberance of “I Once Was a Youth” to the bitter self-recrimination of “She of the Cold Marble Breasts.” What kind of commemoration does Margolin’s tombstone offer? How are we instructed to remember her? How does writing such as an epitaph or a poem help you remember someone who has passed? How does an object or place (such as a tombstone or memorial site) help you remember someone? Ask students to think of examples of each kind of memorialization, either personal or public.
Finally, have students write their own epitaph, with the option to make it ironic, funny, tragic, serious, etc. They can write several. What would the different versions convey to posterity?
Sources: Photograph from https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/21662581/anna-margolin
Anna Margolin, Drunk from the Bitter Truth: The Poems of Anna Margolin, trans. Shirley Kumove (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2005), 273.