Poet Vassar Miller was born in Houston, Texas, and lived all her life in that city’s museum district. She earned her BA and MA in English from the University of Houston. Miller was born with cerebral palsy, and her father, a prominent local real estate developer, encouraged her from an early age to write by typewriter. She went on to publish ten books of poetry, including Adam’s Footprint (1956); Wage War on Silence (1960), which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize; If I Could Sleep Deeply Enough (1974); Selected and New Poems, 1950–1980 (1981); Struggling to Swim on Concrete (1984); and If I Had Wheels or Love (1991). She also edited a collection of creative work by persons with disabilities, Despite This Flesh (1985). In her poetry, Miller explored religious faith, social isolation, and physical disability; her poems’ rigorous formal control, clarity, and directness drew comparisons to religious poets such as John Donne, George Herbert, and Emily Dickinson. Miller once said that the purpose of her life was “To write. And to serve God.”
Miller was twice named the poet laureate of Texas, in 1982 and 1988, and she was inducted into the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame in 1997. Miller taught creative writing for many years at the University of St. Thomas.
The University of North Texas Press holds a yearly poetry book contest in her name, the Vassar Miller Prize in Poetry.