Nau­tilus and Bone

Lisa Richter

January 13, 2020

Nau­tilus and Bone chron­i­cles the life and work of the rad­i­cal, pas­sion­ate Russ­ian-Jew­ish Amer­i­can poet Anna Mar­golin on her path toward self-deter­mi­na­tion. Blend­ing myth, sur­re­al­ism, his­tor­i­cal fact and fic­tion, this col­lec­tion of per­sona poems brings to life one of the most cel­e­brat­ed Yid­dish poets of her generation. 

Discussion Questions

In Nau­tilus and Bone, Lisa Richter races around the life and work of Yid­dish-lan­guage poet Anna Mar­golin (1887 – 1952) until her words are wild­ing.” The poet­ry super­sedes the mere bio­graph­i­cal and show­cas­es the tri­umphs of the genre: in forms includ­ing son­net crowns, cen­tos, and homo­phon­ic trans­la­tions, Richter keeps up with Margolin’s escapades from Brisk to the Low­er East Side. Poems such as Flew the Pea­cock Off-Gold­en” com­bine icon­ic themes of Yid­dish poet­ry with Richter’s exu­ber­ant syn­tax: above sleep I became the peacock/​my rest­less eye flew away you bow.” Lan­guage flaunts itself across his­to­ry — with epigraphs rang­ing from Lor­ca to Liz­zo, the col­lec­tion memo­ri­al­izes Margolin’s lega­cy across time. Richter’s exhil­a­rat­ing achieve­ment doesn’t mere­ly bring Mar­golin to life — it dares the read­er to live as ful­ly as Margolin.