Biography (Critical Survey of Poetry: American Poets)
Lisel Mueller was born Lisel Neumann in Hamburg, Germany, to Fritz C. Neumann and Illse Burmester Neumann, both teachers. Leaving her grandparents behind, her immediate family fled Nazi Germany in 1939 and settled in Evansville, Indiana. Mueller was blessed with a set of parents who were, according to Mueller, “wholly and blessedly gender-blind.” Mueller characterizes her mother as “feminine in the sense that she was warm, outgoing, and impulsive, but she was totally ignorant of ’feminine wiles,’ such as manipulation of, and deference to, men.” It was only when Mueller moved to Evansville, Indiana, at the age of fifteen that she discovered the more traditional roles of women and gender discrimination.
In 1943, Lisel Neumann married Paul Mueller, an editor, and they had two daughters, Lucy and Jenny. Although Mueller would dabble in poetry while in college, preparing for a social-work career, she began to write serious poetry only after the death of her mother in 1953. Many years later she explained, in her poem “When I Am Asked,” why she began writing poetry: On a beautiful June day shortly after her mother died, Mueller discovered that she had to place her grief “in the mouth of language,/ the only thing that would grieve with me.”
Mueller has worked as an instructor of creative writing at Elmhurst College, Goddard College, and the Warren Wilson M.F.A. Program for Writers. She is a self-taught poet, strongly influenced by...
(The entire section is 414 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of this article. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!
Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Lisel Mueller (MYEWL-ur) is a German-born lyric poet whose published work spans the last third of the twentieth century. She was born Lisel Neumann in 1924. Her father, Fritz Neumann, a professor of language and literature, was persecuted as an intellectual after Adolf Hitler came to power. In 1933 Neumann fled Nazi Germany after being arrested by the Gestapo and detained for several days. In 1939 her mother, Ilse Burmester Neumann, also an educator, followed him with their two daughters to the United States, where they settled in Evansville, Indiana. World War II broke out three months after their departure. Consequently, the pull between the personal and the historical is grounded in Mueller’s immediate experience. “In Europe no one has had a private life not affected by history,” she has remarked, and, in fact, her past would yield a poetry shaped by history’s unforgiving hand.
Although Mueller was fifteen when she immigrated, she has always written her poems in English. The American poet Carl Sandburg, whose works were the first she read in English, influenced her toward a diction she describes as “unadorned, muscular, straightforward.” His language made writing seem possible for her, and she began to experiment with poems of her own, crediting Sandburg with her introduction to modern idiom. Later, at Evansville College, now the University of Evansville, she studied the works of Conrad Aiken for his musicality, along with those of Robinson...
(The entire section is 951 words.)
Lisel Mueller was born in 1924 in Hamburg, Germany, and moved to the United States with her parents in 1939. Both parents were teachers, and her father was a political dissident as well. Escaping Nazi Germany, he settled his family in Evans-ville, Indiana, where Lisel quickly learned to speak English, earning American citizenship six years later. As an extremely bright student, she spent only one year in an American high school before attending the University of Evansville, graduating in 1944 at the age of twenty.
Although she dabbled in some adolescent poetry while in school, Lisel did not begin to write serious poetry until after the death of her mother in 1953. At that time, she began a self-taught course of study, including both traditional forms and free verse, eventually settling into her own simple, unadorned poetic style. Determined to combine her love of the creative arts with a "normal" life, she also married, had children, and found employment over the years as a social worker, receptionist, library assistant, and freelance writer. Her first collection of poems, Dependencies, was published in 1965, twelve years after she began to study and write poetry. In 1977, she became an instructor in the Master of Fine Arts writing program at God-dard College in Vermont.
Growing up in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s and eventually fleeing that country undoubtedly had an obvious and profound effect on anyone who lived through it. For...
(The entire section is 461 words.)
Lisel Mueller was born in Hamburg, Germany, on February 8, 1924, and she grew up there during the time of Adolph Hitler’s rise to power. Her parents, both teachers, immigrated to the United States when Mueller was fifteen because they openly disagreed with Hitler’s policies. Her father, who had already been arrested once by the Nazis for his leftist views, fled the country first and then sent for Mueller and her mother when he was established with a position at the University of Evansville, Indiana. Mueller married her husband, Paul, when they were both nineteen, and they were together for almost sixty years, until his death in January of 2001.
Mueller received her degree from the University of Evansville in 1944. After college, she did not write poetry for ten years, feeling that it was “adolescent stuff.” Instead, she worked a number of jobs, including receptionist, social caseworker, library assistant, and freelance writer. She returned to poetry when she was twenty-nine as a way of coping with the strong emotions she was experiencing after her mother died. Mueller’s career as a writer ascended slowly but steadily, from her first published book at the age of forty-one in 1965 to her most recent collection, which has received universal praise. While writing, she has taught at a number of institutions, including the University of Chicago, Goddard College in Vermont, and Elmhurst College. She currently lives in Lake Forest, Illinois.
(The entire section is 373 words.)