Lisel Mueller


Pulitzer Prize (1997)


Poet and translator Lisel Mueller was born in Hamburg, Germany in 1924. The daughter of teachers, her family was forced to flee the Nazi regime when Mueller was 15. They immigrated to the US and settled in the Mid-west.

Mueller attended the University of Evansville, where her father was a professor, and did her graduate study at Indiana University. Her collections of poetry include The Private Life, which was the 1975 Lamont Poetry Selection; Second Language (1986); The Need to Hold Still (1980), which received the National Book Award; Learning to Play by Ear (1990); and Alive Together: New & Selected Poems (1996), which won the Pulitzer Prize. Her other awards and honors include the Carl Sandburg Award, the Helen Bullis Award, the Ruth Lilly Prize, and a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship.

Interested in language and memory, Mueller's work probes the enigma of our public and private selves through image and metaphor. Mueller's work frequently treats history, as well as the folk and fairy tales she studied as a graduate student. Mueller's work has also been praised for its attentiveness to quiet moments of domestic drama, and its ability to speak to the experiences of family and semi-rural life. She and her husband, Paul Mueller built a home in Lake Forest, Illinois in the 1960s, where they raised two daughters and lived for many years.