Creating Emotion through the Words of Experience
RESEARCH PROJECT, with collection finding aids
(photo by Tom Maday – 1997)
Mueller perfects a voice that has learned to react personally to all people, things, times, and places.
- Stephen Corey in "Lives on Leaves," The Virginia Quarterly Review, Vol. 57 No. 4, (Autumn 1981), 732 - 43, as quoted in Contemporary Literary Criticism (Detroit: Gale Research), Vol 51 (1989), 280
Lisel Neumann was born in Hamburg, Germany on February 8, 1924 to parents Fritz C. Neumann and Ilse (Burmester) Neumann, both of whom were teachers. When she was only fifteen, she fled to American with her family to escape the Nazi persecution that raged throughout Europe. The Neumanns settled in Indiana, where Lisel attended Evansville College (later the University of Evansville) and met Paul Mueller who was also attending the school. On June 15, 1943, the young couple married while Paul was on leave from basic training. In 1950, Paul and Lisel attended the University of Indiana where Lisel studied folklore and mythology and Paul studied musicology. After living in Evanston, Illinois in 1958 the Muellers came to Lake Forest, IL settling into the countryside on the prairie outskirts of western Lake Forest. There they raised their two daughters, Lucy and Jenny, and lived for forty-one years until 1999, when she and Paul moved into a retirement home in Chicago. Lisel Mueller is currently living in Chicago.
Chronology including Publications
1924 – born Feb. 8th – Hamburg, Germany
1939 – fled Europe, settled in Evansville, IN
1943 – married June 15th to Paul E. Mueller
1944 – earned her B.A. from Evansville College
1950-53 – Graduate Study at the University of Indiana in folklore
mid 1950’s – Began meeting with poetry group in Evanston, IL (including poet Felix Pollak)
1957 – First child, Lucy, is born
1st published in the New Yorker
1958 – moved to Lake Forest, IL
1962 – Second child, Jenny, is born
1965 – published first book of poetry, Dependencies (University of North Carolina Press)
1966 – Robert M. Ferguson Memorial Award from Friends of Literature, Chicago
1969-72 – Instructor of poetry writing, Elmhurst College
1970 – Life of a Queen (Juniper Press)
1972-77 – participating poet, Poets in the Schools
1974 – Helen Bullis Award from “Poetry Magazine”
1975 – Lamont Poetry Selection for The Private Life (still in manuscript)
1976 – Emily Clark Balch Award from “Virginia Quarterly Review” for The Triumph of Mary Shelley
The Private Life (Louisiana State University Press)
1977 -- Instructor in Master of Fine Arts Writing Program, Goddard College
Voices from the Forest (Juniper Press)
1980 – translated The Selected Later Poems of Marie Luise Kaschnitz (Princeton University Press)
The Need to Hold Still (Louisiana State University Press)
Jacob Glatstein Memorial Prize from Poetry Magazine
1981 – National Book Award for The Need to Hold Still
1986 – A Second Language (Louisiana State University Press)
1989 – Waving From Shore (Louisiana State University Press)
1996 – Alive Together: New and Selected Poems (Louisiana State University Press)
1997 – Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for Alive Together: New and Selected Poems
1999 – Paul and Lisel move to Chicago; much of their libraries are given to the Lake Forest College Library and Lisel's literary manuscripts and her publications in periodicals are deposited there as well.
2001 – Paul Mueller dies
2002 – Ruth Lilly Lifetime Achievement Award; Lake Forest College website prepared by College Richter scholar Elena Bartzen.
“There are very few ideas worth talking about. Those ideas are good for all times, but unless a poet has a new way of dealing with those ideas, they become commonplace. And new insights, new connections, are inseparable from their language, which is why a paraphrase of a poem always sounds banal.”
- Lisel Mueller, interviewed by Nancy L. Bunge in Finding the Words: Interviews with Poets who Teach (Swallow Press, 1985), pp.96 - 105, as quoted in Gellert, 182.
American Academy of Poets – includes a biography and photo of the poet
Interview – Pulitzer Prize interview with Elizabeth Farnsworth, April 14, 1997
Lake Forest College - General College website
Louisiana State University Press – Publisher Website
Juniper Press – Publisher Website
Lake Forest College offers a ten week long apprenticeship program in which first year students have the opportunity to work one-on-one with faculty on research projects ranging from the expected lifetime and job satisfaction of baseball players to the mating habits of guppies. The Richter Program is designed to give students a learning experience that provides a foundation for a future in almost any career. Projects are chosen by faculty members and offered to students as a way for each to become involved and experienced in any field they chose.
The generous depositing by Mrs. Mueller of her literary collection has inspired the project led by Lake Forest College faculty member, Arthur Miller. Miller is the Archivist and Librarian for Special Collections in the Lake Forest College Library. He earned his MA in Library Studies at the University of Chicago, with a thesis on Harriet Monroe Poetry Library. Mr. Miller also has a PhD in English from Northwestern. Under Miller’s direction, Richter student and English/Education major, Elena Bartzen spent the summer of 2002 researching Lisel Mueller and learning about the processes involved within the library. She is a graduate of Walden III Middle and High School in Racine, WI and plans to go onto study Library Science after graduation.
The project itself involved listing the collection amounting to over 1,500 books and pamphlets. Many are first editions, many have been signed by the authors and given as gifts to Mrs. Mueller, and some are simply pamphlets of poems typed out by the poets themselves. By listing the extensive collection, works previously unavailable to the public are now accessible in this primary form. The project is led by Mr. Miller along with the assistance of Elena Bartzen and former Richter student, Sharon Milroy '03. Mrs. Mueller has been involved throughout, and continues to help to answer questions that arise and to approve of the use of her collection.
MUELLER LIBRARY LISTINGS (as recorded at the Lake Forest College Library, 2002)
20th CENTURY POETRY COLLECTION, finding aid arranged alphabetically by authors' last names. Temporarily unavailable due to renovation (back by Sept. 2004).
MUELLER’S PERSONAL WORKS, an index by title to poetry published in books and periodicals
GERMAN LITERATURE COLLECTION, not yet processed
Why We Tell Stories
Because we used to have leaves
And on damp days
Our muscles feel a tug,
Painful now, from when roots
Pulled us into the ground
And because our children believe
They can fly, an instinct retained
From when the bones in our arms
Were shaped like zithers and broke
Neatly under their feathers
And because before we had lungs
We knew how far it was to the bottom
As we floated open-eyed
Like painted scarves through scenery
Of dreams, and because we awakened
And learned to speak
We sat by the fire in our caves,
And because we were poor, we made up a tale
About a treasure mountain
That would open only for us
And because we were always defeated,
We invented impossible riddles
Only we could solve,
Monsters only we could kill,
Women who could love no one else
And because we had survived
Sisters and brothers, daughters and sons,
We discovered bones that rose
From the dark earth and sang
As white birds in trees
Because the story of our life
Becomes our life
The same story but tells it differently
And none of us tells it
the same way twice
Because grandmothers looking like spiders
Want to enchant the children
And grandfathers need to convince us
What happened happened because of them
And though we listen only
Haphazardly, with one ear,
We will begin our story
With the word and
- For more of Mueller’s poetry -
in Review 1998: biography – Mueller, Lisel
Encyclopedia Britannica. 2002. May 24, 2002. 1:08 pm.
An Illinois Portfolio - Lisel Mueller. http://www.wiu.edu. May 28, 2002.
Kitchen, Judith. American Poets Since WWII. – Second Series. Dictionary of Literary Bio, Volume 105. editor; R.S. Gwynn – Gale Research, Inc. Lamar University – Detroit, MI.
Locher, Frances C., ed. Contemporary Authors. Volumes 93-96. Gale Research Co. Detroit, MI. 1980
Plumly, Stanley. Contemporary Literary Criticism. Volume 13. Edit by; Dedria Bryfonski. Gale Research Co. Detroit, MI. 1980.
http://www.pbs.org Pulitzer Prize Interview with Elizabeth Farnsworth. Public Broadcasting Service (News Hour). April 14, 1997.
Marowski, Daniel G., Roger Matuz (eds.) Contemporary Literary Criticism. Vol. 51. Gale Research Co. Detroit, MI. 1989.
Gellert, Elisabeth, Ellen McGeagh
(eds.)Poetry Criticism. Vol. 33. Gale Group, Inc.
Farmington Hills, MI. 2001.
1997 Pulitzer Prize Award
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Last Revised: Feb. 16, 2004
Constructed at Lake Forest College,
Content revised February 2004 by Arthur H. Miller, with the assistance of Rebecca Easley '04.