University of Houston Libraries, Special Collections

Bruce Kellner Vassar Miller Papers

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Kellner, Bruce
Title: Bruce Kellner Vassar Miller Papers
Dates: 1970-2000
Abstract: Professor and author Bruce Kellner met the Houston-based poet Vassar Miller in 1974. This collection includes correspondence from Miller to Kellner, poems by Vassar Miller, critical essays about Vassar Miller, and a typescript of Bruce Kellner's play Swimming on Concrete
Identification: 2000-006
Quantity: 1 box; .4 linear feet
Repository: Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries

Biographical Note

Vassar Miller

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 the 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.

Bruce Kellner

Bruce Kellner is Emeritus Professor of English at Millersville University, near Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He is the author/editor of over a dozen books on literature and several plays. His play Swimming on Concrete, which was based on the writings of Vassar Miller, was produced in February 2000 at the Theater of the Seventh Sister in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Kellner met Vassar Miller in 1974, when he arranged a poetry reading of her work at Millersville. That led to several other readings on various college and university campuses and at the 1978 American Medical Association conference. Kellner and Miller enjoyed a lengthy correspondence, in which Miller offered rare insights into her work, and an intimate friendship.

Scope and Contents

This collection includes correspondence, creative works, clippings, and printed matter written by or related to the poet Vassar Miller. The materials fall between the years 1969 and 2000. Included in this collection are poems and other works by Vassar Miller, critical essays about Vassar Miller, photocopied newspaper clippings, and a typescript of Bruce Kellner's play about Vassar Miller, Swimming on Concrete.

Several folders include correspondence related to Vassar Miller's care in a nursing facility in 1996.


Access Restrictions

Open for research. The envelope in Box 1, Folder 7 is closed to the public until after the donor's death.

Use Restrictions

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, locating 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.

Index Terms

Terms are either Library of Congress Subject Headings or taken from local sources.

Subjects (Persons)

Miller, Vassar
Kellner, Bruce



Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Bruce Kellner Vassar Miller Papers, Courtesy of Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries.


This collection was donated by Bruce Kellner in November 2000.

Processed by

Julie Grob, 2001

Detailed Description

box folder
1 1-30
Box Folder
1 1 Correspondence from VM, 1971-1980
2 Correspondence from VM, 1980-1983
3 Correspondence from VM, 1983-1987
4 Correspondence from VM, 1987-ca. 1990s
5 Correspondence from VM and JoAnn Avinger, 1995-1996
6 Correspondence from VM and JoAnn Avinger, 1996-1998
7 Sealed Envelope, 2000
8 Poems, Unpublished, 1974-1987
9 Poems, Unpublished, 1987-1991, and undated
10 Poems, Unpublished, undated
11 Miscellaneous Works, Autobiography, undated
12 Miscellaneous Works, Despite This Flesh Introduction, [ca. 1985]
13 Works about VM, undated
14 Critical essays about VM: Terence Doody, 1985
15-17 Critical essays about VM: Mary Therese Genovesi, undated
18 Critical essays about VM: Paul Christensen, undated
19 Critical essays about VM: Marilyn Durfee, May 16, 1979
20 Critical essays about VM, 1970
21 Correspondence about VM: Nursing Home, 1995-1996
22 Correspondence about VM: Nursing Home, 1996
23 Correspondence, 1979-1998
24 Articles, 1969-1994
25 Articles, 1995-2000
26 Printed Materials/Memorial Service, 1972-1998
27 Publications, 1976-1983
28 Struggling to Swim on Concrete Typescript and Program, 1998
29 Struggling to Swim on Concrete Typescript, 1998
30 Correspondence: To Bruce Kellner from Steven Ford Brown, 1987-1988