'Things' by Lisel Mueller
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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.
Editor 1 Interpretation
A Poetry of Things: Interpreting Lisel Mueller’s “Things”
Lisel Mueller’s poem “Things” is a marvel of literary craftsmanship, a tight and evocative exploration of the often-overlooked objects and experiences that give shape and meaning to our lives. In just twenty lines, Mueller manages to capture the fullness of human experience, from the mundane to the profound, in a way that is both simple and profound.
But what is it about this poem that makes it so remarkable? In this essay, I will delve into Mueller’s use of language, imagery, and metaphor to explore the deeper themes and meanings of “Things,” and to offer my own interpretation of this powerful work of art.
A Window into the Everyday
One of the most striking features of “Things” is the way it takes ordinary, everyday objects and experiences and imbues them with a sense of significance and depth. From the “shadows of hands” to the “toothbrush” and “shoes,” Mueller’s poem is a catalog of the things that make up our lives, the things we often take for granted but that are essential to our sense of self and identity.
But it’s not just the objects themselves that are important. It’s the way they are used, the way they form a part of our daily rituals and routines. The “bookcase” is not just a piece of furniture, but a repository of our ideas and thoughts, a reflection of our intellectual life. The “coffee grinder” is not just a machine, but a symbol of our connection to the earth and its bounty.
As readers, we are invited to see these objects in a new light, to appreciate their richness and complexity, and to recognize the ways in which they shape our lives and experiences.
Language and Metaphor
Central to Mueller’s poetic technique is her use of language and metaphor. Each line of “Things” is carefully crafted to evoke a particular image or feeling, using precise and economical language that packs a punch.
Take, for example, the opening line: “What happened is, we grew lonely / living among the things.” Here, Mueller uses the verb “grew” to convey a sense of gradual change, a slow process of evolution that has led the speaker to a state of loneliness. The phrase “living among the things” is also significant, as it suggests a kind of detachment or alienation from the world, a sense of being disconnected from the people and experiences that give our lives meaning.
Throughout the poem, Mueller uses metaphor to deepen our understanding of the objects and experiences she describes. The “bookcase” becomes a “forest” of ideas, while the “coffee grinder” is a “ceremony of beans.” These metaphors serve to elevate the objects beyond their everyday function, to imbue them with a sense of wonder and mystery.
Themes and Interpretations
So what is “Things” really about? The answer, of course, is open to interpretation, but there are a few themes and ideas that emerge from the text.
One of the most prominent themes is the idea of connection and disconnection. The speaker of the poem is lonely, disconnected from the people and experiences around her, and seeks solace and meaning in the objects that surround her. At the same time, these objects serve as a reminder of the ways in which we are all connected, the shared experiences and rituals that bind us together.
Another theme that emerges is the idea of transformation and growth. The speaker of the poem has “grown lonely,” but there is a sense that this loneliness is not permanent, that it is part of a larger process of change and evolution. The objects themselves are also in a state of flux, constantly being transformed and repurposed as we move through the world.
Finally, there is a sense of gratitude and appreciation that runs throughout the poem. The speaker is not resentful or bitter about her loneliness, but rather recognizes the richness and complexity of the world around her. She is grateful for the objects and experiences that make up her life, even as she seeks to understand and connect with them on a deeper level.
In conclusion, Lisel Mueller’s “Things” is a powerful and evocative poem that speaks to the human experience in all its complexity and wonder. Through her use of language, metaphor, and imagery, Mueller invites us to see the world around us in a new light, to appreciate the objects and experiences that make up our lives, and to recognize the ways in which we are all connected. Whether read as a meditation on loneliness, a celebration of everyday objects, or a study of personal growth and transformation, “Things” is a work of art that will continue to resonate with readers for generations to come.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Poetry is a form of art that has been around for centuries. It is a way for people to express their emotions, thoughts, and experiences through words. Poetry can be a powerful tool to convey complex ideas and emotions that are difficult to express in other forms of communication. One such poem that stands out in the world of poetry is "Things" by Lisel Mueller.
Lisel Mueller was a German-born American poet who won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1997. She was known for her ability to capture the essence of life in her poetry. Her poem "Things" is a perfect example of her talent.
"Things" is a short poem that consists of only 12 lines. However, the poem is packed with meaning and emotion. The poem is written in free verse, which means that it does not follow a specific rhyme scheme or meter. This gives the poet the freedom to express herself in a more natural and organic way.
The poem begins with the line, "What happened is, we grew lonely." This line sets the tone for the rest of the poem. It suggests that the speaker and the person they are addressing have grown apart and are now lonely. The use of the word "we" suggests that both parties are responsible for the distance that has grown between them.
The next line, "And got tired of each other" reinforces the idea that the relationship has become stale. The use of the word "tired" suggests that the speaker and the other person have become bored with each other. This line also suggests that the relationship has been going on for a long time.
The third line, "We used up all our chances" suggests that the speaker and the other person have tried to make the relationship work but have failed. The use of the word "chances" suggests that they have had multiple opportunities to make things work, but they have not been successful.
The fourth line, "Before we thought to save them" suggests that the speaker and the other person did not realize the value of their relationship until it was too late. The use of the word "save" suggests that the relationship was in danger and needed to be rescued.
The fifth line, "We walked away, forgot" suggests that the speaker and the other person have given up on the relationship. The use of the word "forgot" suggests that they have moved on and have forgotten about each other.
The sixth line, "And love, like youth, is wasted on the young" is a powerful line that suggests that the speaker and the other person were too young and inexperienced to appreciate the value of their relationship. The use of the word "wasted" suggests that they did not make the most of their relationship when they had the chance.
The seventh line, "Before we learned to love, we ran away" suggests that the speaker and the other person did not know how to love each other. The use of the word "learned" suggests that love is a skill that needs to be learned and developed. The use of the phrase "ran away" suggests that they were afraid of the challenges that come with love.
The eighth line, "And left our innocence behind" suggests that the speaker and the other person have lost their innocence. The use of the word "left" suggests that they have made a conscious decision to leave their innocence behind.
The ninth line, "Summer passed, and we forgot the taste of plums" is a metaphor that suggests that the speaker and the other person have lost their ability to appreciate the simple pleasures of life. The use of the word "forgot" suggests that they have become jaded and have lost their sense of wonder.
The tenth line, "The light dims, the air cools, and we turn to stone" is a powerful image that suggests that the speaker and the other person have become cold and unfeeling. The use of the phrase "turn to stone" suggests that they have lost their ability to feel emotions.
The eleventh line, "The love we swore would never pass away" suggests that the speaker and the other person were once deeply in love. The use of the phrase "never pass away" suggests that they believed their love was eternal.
The final line, "We find that it has" is a powerful conclusion to the poem. It suggests that the speaker and the other person have come to the realization that their love has indeed passed away. The use of the word "find" suggests that they have made a discovery, and the use of the word "has" suggests that their love is now a thing of the past.
In conclusion, "Things" by Lisel Mueller is a powerful poem that captures the essence of lost love. The poem is a reminder that love is a precious thing that needs to be nurtured and cherished. The use of metaphors and powerful images makes the poem a memorable and emotional experience. The poem is a testament to the power of poetry to capture the complexities of human emotions and experiences.
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