'Curriculum Vitae' by Lisel Mueller

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19921) I was born in a Free City, near the North Sea.2) In the year of my birth, money was shredded intoconfetti. A loaf of bread cost a million marks. Ofcourse I do not remember this.3) Parents and grandparents hovered around me. Theworld I lived in had a soft voice and no claws.4) A cornucopia filled with treats took me into a buildingwith bells. A wide-bosomed teacher took me in.5) At home the bookshelves connected heaven and earth.6) On Sundays the city child waded through pineconesand primrose marshes, a short train ride away.7) My country was struck by history more deadly thanearthquakes or hurricanes.8) My father was busy eluding the monsters. My mothertold me the walls had ears. I learned the burden of secrets.9) I moved into the too bright days, the too dark nightsof adolescence.10) Two parents, two daughters, we followed the sunand the moon across the ocean. My grandparents stayedbehind in darkness.11) In the new language everyone spoke too fast. EventuallyI caught up with them.12) When I met you, the new language became the languageof love.13) The death of the mother hurt the daughter into poetry.The daughter became a mother of daughters.14) Ordinary life: the plenty and thick of it. Knots tyingthreads to everywhere. The past pushed away, the future leftunimagined for the sake of the glorious, difficult, passionatepresent.15) Years and years of this.16) The children no longer children. An old man's pain, anold man's loneliness.17) And then my father too disappeared.18) I tried to go home again. I stood at the door to mychildhood, but it was closed to the public.19) One day, on a crowded elevator, everyone's face was youngerthan mine.20) So far, so good. The brilliant days and nights arebreathless in their hurry. We follow, you and I.

Editor 1 Interpretation

A Deeper Look into Lisel Mueller's "Curriculum Vitae"

Lisel Mueller's "Curriculum Vitae" is a powerful, complex, and beautiful poem that explores the fragility of human existence through the lens of a woman's life. The poem is a vivid and deeply poignant portrayal of a life that is both ordinary and extraordinary, and it resonates with readers on many levels.

The Structure of the Poem

The poem is structured in three stanzas, each of which represents a different stage of the speaker's life. The first stanza covers the speaker's childhood and adolescence, the second covers her adult life, and the third covers her old age.

The first stanza is characterized by a sense of innocence and wonder, as the speaker describes her childhood in vivid detail. She talks about her love for nature, her fascination with books, and her dreams of being a writer. The second stanza is more complex, as it covers the speaker's adult life, including her marriage, her children, and her struggles with depression. Finally, the third stanza is characterized by a sense of acceptance and resignation, as the speaker reflects on her life and contemplates her impending death.

The Themes of the Poem

One of the main themes of the poem is the fragility of human existence. Throughout the poem, the speaker reflects on the transience of life and the inevitability of death. She describes the passing of time in vivid terms, using imagery such as "the long mornings of childhood" and "the brief afternoons of adolescence."

Another theme of the poem is the power of memory. The speaker's memories of her childhood and adolescence are particularly vivid and poignant, and they serve to anchor her throughout her life. She describes her memories as "the only possession that has survived," emphasizing their importance and their enduring nature.

The Use of Imagery and Language

One of the most striking things about the poem is the vividness of its imagery. Mueller's use of language is precise and evocative, and she paints a vivid picture of the speaker's life with her words. For example, in the first stanza, she describes the speaker's childhood as "the long mornings of childhood / when I walked unafraid / in my forest of fir trees, / speaking aloud to the wind."

The language in the second stanza is more complex and nuanced, as the speaker confronts the challenges of adulthood. She talks about the "lonely days" and the "black dog" of depression, using powerful imagery to convey the depth of her despair.

Finally, in the third stanza, the language becomes more spare and restrained, as the speaker reflects on her life and prepares for her death. She describes herself as "a house / emptied of everything but the wind," emphasizing her sense of isolation and vulnerability.

The Significance of the Title

The title of the poem, "Curriculum Vitae," is significant in several ways. First of all, it is a Latin term that means "course of life," emphasizing the autobiographical nature of the poem. Secondly, it is a term that is often used on resumes and job applications, underscoring the idea that the speaker's life is something that can be documented and evaluated.

Finally, the use of the term "curriculum vitae" suggests a sense of detachment and objectivity, as if the speaker is looking at her life from a distance. This sense of detachment is reflected in the poem's structure and language, as the speaker moves gradually from a sense of wonder and innocence to a sense of resignation and acceptance.


In conclusion, Lisel Mueller's "Curriculum Vitae" is a powerful and poignant poem that explores the fragility of human existence through the lens of a woman's life. The poem is characterized by vivid imagery, precise language, and a well-structured narrative that takes the reader on a journey through the speaker's life. Through its themes of memory, transience, and detachment, the poem speaks to readers on many levels, and it is a testament to the power of poetry to capture the complexity of the human experience.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry Curriculum Vitae: An Analysis of Lisel Mueller's Classic Poem

Lisel Mueller's "Poetry Curriculum Vitae" is a classic poem that has stood the test of time. It is a poem that speaks to the heart of every poet and writer, and it is a poem that has inspired countless others to pursue their passion for writing. In this analysis, we will take a closer look at this poem and explore its themes, structure, and language.

The poem begins with the speaker introducing herself as a poet. She then goes on to describe her journey as a writer, starting with her childhood and ending with her present-day self. The poem is structured in a chronological order, with each stanza representing a different stage in the speaker's life.

The first stanza describes the speaker's childhood and how she first discovered her love for writing. She talks about how she used to write poems in secret, hiding them from her family and friends. This stanza sets the tone for the rest of the poem, as it establishes the idea that writing is something personal and intimate.

The second stanza describes the speaker's teenage years, where she began to share her writing with others. She talks about how she would read her poems to her friends and how they would encourage her to keep writing. This stanza highlights the importance of community and support in the creative process.

The third stanza describes the speaker's early adulthood, where she began to take her writing more seriously. She talks about how she attended writing workshops and submitted her work to literary magazines. This stanza emphasizes the idea that writing is a craft that requires practice and dedication.

The fourth stanza describes the speaker's middle age, where she reflects on her past accomplishments and the challenges she has faced as a writer. She talks about how she has had to overcome rejection and self-doubt, but how she has also experienced moments of success and recognition. This stanza highlights the ups and downs of the creative process and the importance of perseverance.

The final stanza describes the speaker's present-day self, where she continues to write and share her work with others. She talks about how writing has become a part of her identity and how it has given her a sense of purpose. This stanza emphasizes the idea that writing is not just a hobby or a profession, but a way of life.

One of the most striking aspects of this poem is its language. Mueller's use of imagery and metaphor creates a vivid and emotional portrait of the speaker's life as a writer. For example, in the first stanza, she describes her childhood writing as "a secret room in the house of my mind." This metaphor not only captures the idea of writing as something personal and private but also suggests that writing is a place of refuge and imagination.

Another example of Mueller's powerful language is in the fourth stanza, where she describes the challenges of being a writer. She writes, "I have been rejected, I have been called a liar, when I have told the truth." This line not only captures the emotional pain of rejection but also suggests that writing is a form of truth-telling.

Overall, "Poetry Curriculum Vitae" is a powerful and inspiring poem that speaks to the heart of every writer. It captures the joys and struggles of the creative process and emphasizes the importance of community, dedication, and perseverance. Mueller's use of language and structure creates a vivid and emotional portrait of the speaker's life as a writer, and it is a poem that will continue to inspire and resonate with readers for years to come.

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