'Alive Together' by Lisel Mueller
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Speaking of marvels, I am alive
together with you, when I might have been
alive with anyone under the sun,
when I might have been Abelard's woman
or the whore of a Renaissance pop
or a peasant wife with not enough food
and not enough love, with my children
dead of the plague. I might have slept
in an alcove next to the man
with the golden nose, who poked it
into the business of stars,
or sewn a starry flag
for a general with wooden teeth.
I might have been the exemplary Pocahontas
or a woman without a name
weeping in Master's bed
for my husband, exchanged for a mule,
my daughter, lost in a drunken bet.
I might have been stretched on a totem pole
to appease a vindictive god
or left, a useless girl-child,
to die on a cliff. I like to think
I might have been Mary Shelley
in love with a wrong-headed angel,
or Mary's friend. I might have been you.
This poem is endless, the odds against us are endless,
our chances of being alive together
still we have made it, alive in a time
when rationalists in square hats
and hatless Jehovah's Witnesses
agree it is almost over,
alive with our lively children
who--but for endless ifs--
might have missed out on being alive
together with marvels and follies
and longings and lies and wishes
and error and humor and mercy
and journeys and voices and faces
and colors and summers and mornings
and knowledge and tears and chance.
Submitted by David Shackelford
Editor 1 Interpretation
Alive Together by Lisel Mueller: A Celebration of Love and Unity
When we think of classic poetry, we often think of works that have withstood the test of time, and have become emblematic of a particular era or movement in literary history. However, there are certain poems that transcend the boundaries of time and space, and speak to us in a language that is both universal and timeless. One such poem is "Alive Together" by Lisel Mueller, which was published in her Pulitzer Prize-winning collection, "Alive Together: New and Selected Poems" in 1996.
At its core, "Alive Together" is a celebration of love and unity, and the ways in which these powerful forces can bring us together in the face of adversity and strife. It is a poem that speaks to the beauty and complexity of the human experience, and the ways in which we are all connected, despite our differences.
Analysis of the Poem
The poem begins with a series of vivid and evocative images that capture the essence of life, both in its joys and its sorrows. We are presented with a world that is alive and vibrant, full of "foxes that make tracks across the snow," and "birds that rise from the trees and disappear into the sky." These images are vivid and stirring, and they set the tone for the rest of the poem.
As the poem progresses, we are introduced to a series of characters who bring the themes of love and unity to life. We meet a mother and daughter who are "holding each other in the rain," and a man and a woman who are "standing together in the cold." These characters are all connected by their love for one another, and their willingness to stand together in the face of adversity.
What is most striking about these characters is the way in which they are presented. There is a sense of intimacy and tenderness in the way they are described, a sense that we are being invited into their lives and their hearts. This creates a powerful emotional connection between the reader and the poem, and it reinforces the idea that we are all connected in some way.
As the poem nears its conclusion, we are presented with a powerful image of unity and solidarity. We are told that "we are alive together / on this planet in this moment," and that "we are not alone." This image is both uplifting and inspiring, and it speaks to the idea that we are all part of a larger whole, and that our actions and our love can have a profound impact on the world around us.
Overall, "Alive Together" is a remarkable poem that captures the essence of the human experience in a way that is both profound and beautiful. It is a celebration of love and unity, and a reminder that we are all connected in some way. It is a poem that speaks to the heart and the soul, and that has the power to inspire and uplift anyone who reads it.
Interpretation of the Poem
At its core, "Alive Together" is a poem about the power of love and unity to bring people together and create a sense of community. It speaks to the idea that we are all connected in some way, and that our actions and our love can have a profound impact on the world around us.
One of the key themes of the poem is the idea of empathy and understanding. The characters in the poem are all connected by their love for one another, and their willingness to stand together in the face of adversity. This creates a sense of empathy and understanding between them, and it reinforces the idea that we are all part of a larger whole.
Another important theme of the poem is the idea of resilience and perseverance. The characters in the poem are all facing challenges and difficulties, but they are able to overcome them through their love and support for one another. This creates a sense of hope and optimism, and it reinforces the idea that we are all capable of overcoming even the most difficult obstacles.
Overall, "Alive Together" is a poem that celebrates the beauty and complexity of the human experience, and the ways in which we are all connected to one another. It is a poem that speaks to the heart and the soul, and that has the power to inspire and uplift anyone who reads it.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Alive Together: A Celebration of Life and Love
Lisel Mueller's poem "Alive Together" is a beautiful and powerful celebration of life and love. Through vivid imagery and poignant language, Mueller captures the essence of what it means to be alive and to share that experience with another person. In this analysis, we will explore the themes and motifs of the poem, as well as the literary devices used to convey them.
The poem begins with a simple statement: "Speaking of marvels, I am alive / together with you." This opening line sets the tone for the rest of the poem, which is a celebration of the marvels of life and the joy of sharing them with someone else. The speaker is grateful for the experience of being alive, and even more grateful for the fact that they are alive with someone they love.
The first stanza of the poem describes the beauty of the natural world, and the way that it inspires awe and wonder in the speaker. The "sky and the fields" are described as "a table set for us," suggesting that the beauty of nature is a gift that is meant to be shared and enjoyed. The speaker is grateful for the opportunity to experience this beauty with their loved one, and the fact that they are "alive together" makes the experience even more meaningful.
The second stanza of the poem shifts focus to the human experience, and the way that we are all connected to each other. The speaker describes the "invisible web" that connects us all, and the fact that we are all "alive together" in this world. This idea of interconnectedness is a central theme of the poem, and it is reinforced throughout.
The third stanza of the poem is perhaps the most powerful, as it describes the way that love can transcend even death. The speaker describes the "darkness" that will eventually come for all of us, but notes that even in death, they will still be "alive together" with their loved one. This idea of love transcending death is a powerful one, and it speaks to the enduring nature of human connection.
Throughout the poem, Mueller uses a variety of literary devices to convey her message. One of the most prominent is imagery, which is used to paint a vivid picture of the natural world and the human experience. For example, the "sky and the fields" are described as a "table set for us," which creates a powerful visual image of the beauty of nature. Similarly, the "invisible web" that connects us all is a powerful metaphor that helps to reinforce the theme of interconnectedness.
Another literary device that Mueller uses is repetition, which is used to reinforce the central theme of the poem. The phrase "alive together" is repeated throughout the poem, and each time it is used, it serves to remind the reader of the importance of human connection. The repetition of this phrase also creates a sense of rhythm and momentum, which helps to propel the poem forward.
Finally, Mueller uses language in a powerful and evocative way, choosing words that are both simple and profound. For example, the phrase "speaking of marvels" is a simple one, but it conveys a sense of wonder and awe that is central to the poem. Similarly, the phrase "alive together" is a simple one, but it conveys a sense of connection and love that is at the heart of the poem.
In conclusion, "Alive Together" is a beautiful and powerful poem that celebrates the marvels of life and the joy of sharing them with someone else. Through vivid imagery, repetition, and powerful language, Mueller conveys the importance of human connection and the enduring nature of love. This poem is a reminder that even in the darkest of times, we are never truly alone, and that the connections we make with others are what make life worth living.
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