Remembering Lisel Mueller

Today we say goodbye to one of our founders, Lisel Mueller.

Lisel Mueller lived an extraordinary life.  She and her family fled Nazi Germany when Lisel was 15 years old. She became a poet, a teacher, a writer of criticism, and a founder of our organization. She was awarded the Pulitzer in 1997 for “Alive Together: New and Selected Poems.” In 2019 the German Consul General of Chicago awarded Lisel the Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany.

To honor her today, I invite you to explore her page in our archive. On this page you’ll find streaming audio of Lisel’s 1995 reading for the Poetry Center. 

Our work and our organization are indebted to Lisel’s belief in the value of poetry: to allow us to speak of our greatest crimes and sing to the heavens–to grapple with all that life holds. We thank Lisel for creating this work, for her poetry, and for a life lived so vibrantly, conscientiously, alive.

As Lisel travels on, my wish is to send her off with her own, “Spell for a Traveler,” which you may read below.





































The Poetry Center 1974: Pictured is some of the original board including Lisel Mueller, Paul Carroll, Mark Perlberg, and John Rezek and the advisory board at the time (then called the “guiding council”) including Barry Schechter, Bill Knott, Paul Hoover, Michael Anania, Bill Hunt, Candance Rackenger, Rich Friedman, Peter Kostackis, John Rezek, Neil Hackman, Rose Simon, Maxine Chernoff. 
Lisel Mueller at her 2019 bestowal ceremony, receiving the Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany.



“Writing poetry makes me feel like I can see myself, like I can see my reflection, but not in a mirror, in the world. I write and I know I can be reflected.”
-Oscar S.

“Writing poetry makes me feel free.”
-Buenda D.

“Writing poetry is like your best friend.”
-Jessica M.