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Vassar Miller Papers

Identifier: 1987-003

The Vassar Miller Papers contain material pertaining to Miller's writings, career, and personal life, and materials pertaining to the editing and publication of the anthology. Materials range in date from circa 1937 to 1992, with most of the material falling between the years 1960 to 1986.

The series relating to Miller's own work and life contain correspondence, poems, short stories, plays, miscellaneous works, drafts and typescripts of published works, and material related to Miller's writing career. The Despite This Flesh series contain correspondence, material related to the preparation of the anthology, stories and poems which were considered for possible inclusion in the anthology, and drafts and proofs of the anthology.

Noteworthy correspondents whose letters or notes may be found in the collection include Larry McMurtry, Richard Hugo, Calvin Trillin, Anne Tyler, and James Wright. A brief partial autobiography of Vassar Miller can be found in Miscellaneous Works, and typescripts of interviews done with Vassar Miller may be found in the correspondence of Karla Hammond and the correspondence of Christopher Woods.

Two chapbooks, two literary magazines, and one broadside have been removed from the manuscript collection and cataloged.

Special Collections also holds numerous signed copies of Miller's books, and Miller's personal collection of signed books by other poets.


  • 1937-1992


Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access:

Open for research.

Conditions Governing Use:

Special Collections owns the physical items in our collections, but copyright normally belongs to the creator of the materials or their heirs. The researcher has full responsibility for determining copyright status, obtaining permission to publish from copyright holders, and abiding by current copyright laws when publishing or displaying copies of Special Collections material in print or electronic form. For more information, consult the appropriate librarian. Reproduction decisions will be made by Special Collections staff on a case-by-case basis.


9.00 linear feet

Biographical Information:

Vassar Miller was born in Houston in 1924, the daughter of a prominent architect. She began writing as a child, composing on a typewriter due to cerebral palsy which affected her speech and movement. She attended the University of Houston, receiving her B.A. and M.A. in English.

In 1956, Miller published her first volume of poetry, Adam's Footprint. Her poems, most of which dealt with either her strong religious faith or her experiences as a person with a disability, were widely praised for their rigorous formality, clarity, and emotional impact. In 1961 Miller was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for her collection Wage War on Silence. Over the course of a literary career which spanned almost forty years, Miller published ten volumes of poetry in all. An outspoken advocate for the rights and dignity of the handicapped, Miller also edited a collection of poetry and short stories about persons with disabilities titled Despite This Flesh.

Miller received many awards and accolades for her poetry in her home state. Three of her books won the annual poetry prize of the Texas Institute of Letters. In 1982 and 1988 Miller was named Poet Laureate of Texas, and in 1997 she was named to the Texas Women's Hall of Fame by the Governor's Commission for Women.

Vassar Miller died in 1998.

Major Works:

If I Had Wheels or Love. Dallas, Tex.: Southern Methodist University Press, 1991.

(Editor). Despite This Flesh. Austin, Tex.: University of Texas Press, 1985.

Struggling to Swim on Concrete. New Orleans, La.: New Orleans Poetry Journal Press, 1984.

Selected and New Poems, 1950-1980. Austin, Tex.: Latitudes Press, 1981.

Approaching Nada. Houston, Tex.: Wings Press, 1977.

Small Change. Houston, Tex.: Wings Press, 1976.

If I Could Sleep Deeply Enough. New York: Liveright, 1974.

Onions and Roses. Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1968.

My Bones Being Wiser. Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1963.

Wage War on Silence. Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1960.

Adam's Footprint. New Orleans, La.: New Orleans Poetry Journal, 1956.

Acquisition Information:

This collection was purchased from Vassar Miller by the UH Libraries in 1987-1988 with the support of the Rockwell Fund and the Imperial Oil Company. Maud Lipscomb donated twenty 4x5 black and white photographic prints which she took in 1985. Jon Schultz donated a program from the memorial service for Craig Gallagher.


Other Information:

Uploaded to TARO, 2005.

Additional information may be found at

Processing Information:

Julie Grob, 1999

Guide to the Vassar Miller Papers
Julie Grob
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Repository Details

Part of the University of Houston Libraries Special Collections Repository

University of Houston Libraries Special Collections
MD Anderson Library
4333 University Drive
Houston TX 77204-2000 USA