Lisel Mueller Analysis

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

Drawing upon her native language, Lisel Mueller (MYEWL-ur) has published translations of the works of two German women, including Three Daughters (1987), a novel by Anna Mitgutsch; Selected Later Poems of Marie Luise Kaschnitz (1980); Whether or Not (1984), a prose work by Kaschnitz; and Circe’s Mountain (1990), a collection of Kaschnitz’s short stories.

Throughout her career, Mueller has also written critical articles and reviews for the magazine Poetry and for the Chicago Daily News. Her essay “Midwestern Poetry: Goodbye to All That” appears in a collection of essays Voyages to the Inland Sea I (1971), edited by John Judson. Also, a brief essay titled “Parentage and Good Luck” appears in Where We Stand: Women Poets and the Literary Tradition (1993), edited by Sharon Bryan.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Although Lisel Mueller began writing poetry in college, she did not turn to serious writing of poetry for several more years. Her first volume of poems, Dependencies, was published in 1965. This volume is often regarded as excessively literary, but the lead poem, “The Blind Leading the Blind,” is frequently anthologized. Mueller’s second full volume of poetry, The Private Life, won the Lamont Poetry Selection in 1975. Mueller received the National Book Award in Poetry (1981) for The Need to Hold Still, the Theodore Roethke Prize from Poetry Northwest (1985), and the Carl Sandburg Literary Award (1989). She was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in poetry in 1997 for Alive Together and the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize in 2002.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Bryan, Sharon, ed. Stand: Women Poets and the Literary Tradition. New York: W. W. Norton, 1993. Mueller’s essay “Parentage and Good Luck” appears in this collection and casts much light on the poet’s life and concerns.

Cruze, Karen DeBrulye. “Bringing It All Together.” Chicago Tribune, December 5, 1993, pp. 1-4. This feature provides insight into Mueller’s personal history through interviews with her, with her publisher at Louisiana State University Press, and with former students of Mueller.

Mueller, Lisel. “An Interview with Lisel Mueller.” Interview by Nancy Bunge. In Finding the Words: Interviews with Writers Who Teach, edited by Nancy Bunge. Athens, Ohio: Swallow Press, 1985. Bunge’s questions encourage Mueller to reflect on bilingualism, the arts of writing and teaching, and questions of ethics.

_______. “The Steady Interior Hum.” Interview by Stan Sanvel Rubin and William Heyden. In The Post-confessionals: Conversations with American Poets of the Eighties, edited by Earl G. Ingersoll, Judith Kitchen, and Rubin. Rutherford, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1989. Mueller discusses inspiration, metaphor, and translation.

Preston, Rohan B. “’Everything Is Autobiography’: Pulitzer Poet Lisel Mueller.” Chicago Tribune, April 11, 1997, p. 1. Written on the occasion of Mueller’s winning the Pulitzer Prize, this article calls her poetry “focused and accessible” and notes that it draws on her own life.

Solyn, Paul. “Lisel Mueller and the Idea of Midwestern Poetry.” In Regionalism and the Female Imagination: A Collection of Essays, edited by Emily Toth. New York: Human Sciences Press, 1985. Solyn takes issue with many points that Mueller makes in “Midwestern Poetry: Goodbye to All That.” Solyn is particularly disturbed by Mueller’s separation of rural and urban midwestern poets. Mueller does not believe that urban poets from large midwestern cities are distinctly different from other urban poets.