Yesterday, April 30, concluded National Poetry Month in Canada. In our courtyard a large magnolia is abloom (late this year) with voluptuous flowers. The perfect companion to the poem “Magnolia” by Lisel Mueller from her book Alive Together. What’s blooming in your world?
This year spring and summer decided
to make it quick, roll themselves in to one
season of three days
and steam right out of winter.
In the front yard the reluctant
magnolia buds lost control
and suddenly stood wide open.
Two days later their pale pink silks
heaped up around the trunk
like cast-off petticoats.
Remember how long spring used to take?
And how long from the first locking of fingers
to the first real kiss? And after that
the other eternity, endless motion
toward the undoing of a button?
What luxury, to be so happy
that we can grieve
over imaginary lives.
Mueller, Lisel. “Magnolia.” Alive Together. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1996. For this book, Poet and translator Lisel Mueller won the 1997 Pulitzer. Born in Germany in 1924, the daughter of teachers, she and her family fled the Nazi regime and settled in the midwest US. Lisel attended the University of Evansville, where her father was a professor, and did graduate studies at Indiana University. The death of her mother in 1953 spurred her to get serious about writing poetry. Her collections include The Private Life, 1975; 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. She also won the Carl Sandburg Award and a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship.
Her poems have been praised for their quiet moments of domestic drama and the experiences of semi-rural family. “I am intimately familiar with the names and habits of the wildflowers and the birds that live in our hawthorns and aspens. We all live together, in the world and in my poems,” she said in a PBS interview. Lisle died in 2020.