Lisel Mueller


Lisel Mueller was born in Hamburg, Germany, on February 8, 1924, and came to the United States in 1939. She attended the University of Evansville in Indiana, where her father was a professor of French and German. Her books of poetry include Alive Together: New & Selected Poems (Louisiana State University Press, 1996), which won the Pulitzer Prize; The Need to Hold Still (1980), which received the National Book Award; and The Private Life, which was the 1975 Lamont Poetry Selection, among others. She also published several volumes of translation, including Circe's Mountain by Marie Luise Kaschnitz (1990). Her other honors include the Carl Sandburg Award and a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship. She taught at Elmhurst College, Goddard College, the University of Chicago, and Warren Wilson College. She lived in Lake Forest, Illinois and died on February 21, 2020. Source


What happened is, we grew lonely

living among the things,

so we gave the clock a face,

the chair a back,

the table four stout legs

which will never suffer fatigue.


We fitted our shoes with tongues

as smooth as our own

and hung tongues inside bells

so we could listen

to their emotional language,


and because we loved graceful profiles

the pitcher received a lip,

the bottle a long, slender neck.


Even what was beyond us

was recast in our image;

we gave the country a heart,

the storm an eye,

the cave a mouth

so we could pass into safety.





Literary Movements:


Anthology Years:



Poems of the Everyday

Literary Devices:


the absence of a conjunction (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so…) between phrases and within a sentence


a comparison between two unrelated things through a shared characteristic


the attribution of human qualities to a non-human thing