About this poet

Lisel Mueller was born in Hamburg, Germany, on February 8, 1924. Her books of poetry include Alive Together: New & Selected Poems (Louisiana State University Press, 1996), which won the Pulitzer Prize; Learning to Play by Ear (1990); Waving from Shore (1989); Second Language (1986); The Need to Hold Still (1980), which received the National Book Award; Voices from the Forest (1977); The Private Life, which was the 1975 Lamont Poetry Selection; and Dependencies (1965). She has also published several volumes of translation, most recently Circe's Mountain by Marie Luise Kaschnitz (1990). Her honors include the Carl Sandburg Award and a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship. She lives in Lake Forest, Illinois.

Curriculum Vitae

Lisel Mueller, 1924

1992

1) I was born in a Free City, near the North Sea.

2) In the year of my birth, money was shredded into 
confetti. A loaf of bread cost a million marks. Of 
course I do not remember this.

3) Parents and grandparents hovered around me. The 
world I lived in had a soft voice and no claws.

4) A cornucopia filled with treats took me into a building 
with bells. A wide-bosomed teacher took me in.

5) At home the bookshelves connected heaven and earth.

6) On Sundays the city child waded through pinecones 
and primrose marshes, a short train ride away.

7) My country was struck by history more deadly than 
earthquakes or hurricanes.

8) My father was busy eluding the monsters. My mother 
told me the walls had ears. I learned the burden of secrets.

9) I moved into the too bright days, the too dark nights 
of adolescence.

10) Two parents, two daughters, we followed the sun 
and the moon across the ocean. My grandparents stayed 
behind in darkness.

11) In the new language everyone spoke too fast. Eventually 
I caught up with them.

12) When I met you, the new language became the language 
of love.

13) The death of the mother hurt the daughter into poetry. 
The daughter became a mother of daughters.

14) Ordinary life: the plenty and thick of it. Knots tying 
threads to everywhere. The past pushed away, the future left 
unimagined for the sake of the glorious, difficult, passionate 
present.

15) Years and years of this.

16) The children no longer children. An old man's pain, an 
old man's loneliness.

17) And then my father too disappeared.

18) I tried to go home again. I stood at the door to my 
childhood, but it was closed to the public.

19) One day, on a crowded elevator, everyone's face was younger 
than mine.

20) So far, so good. The brilliant days and nights are 
breathless in their hurry. We follow, you and I.

From Alive Together: New and Selected Poems by Lisel Mueller, published by Louisiana State University Press. Copyright © 1996 by Lisel Mueller. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

From Alive Together: New and Selected Poems by Lisel Mueller, published by Louisiana State University Press. Copyright © 1996 by Lisel Mueller. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Lisel Mueller

Lisel Mueller

Lisel Mueller was born in Hamburg, Germany, in 1924. Her books of