Teresa K. Miller with Carol Muske-Dukes “Borderline Fortune”

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Author, Teresa K. Miller. Photo courtesy of Teresa K. Miller.

Poet-judge Carol Muske-Dukes selected Teresa K. Miller as a National Poetry Series winner. Listen to her explain that decision. Miller discusses “Borderline Fortune,” the one that won her the prize, when she was about ready to give up on herself—her fourth manuscript, and eighth application, submitted across fourteen years. “Borderline Fortune” is a poetry book with a voice in a dying world; it is a non-narrative with a narrative, an intergenerational story that doesn’t connect the dots.

Excerpt from Borderline Fortune by Teresa K. Miller

I came here to conjure you.
What may I say—
anything, all of it, friction
on the flint, many-armed agent
of entropy. What wrath would
I risk reaping, what disowning.

Who bore me
to the shore, pressed
me under, dragged there
ragged gasps.

If I am already orphaned, why fear
orphaning, this splintered boom in my hand.


If I had a child, she was already mine. We did it backward,
skipping time.

The mouth of the Duwamish smells like creosote. Gravel yard.
Freight train on a rusted trestle.

We lashed a raft together and set off paddling. I wasn’t
yet born. The water dried salty, reliable—cold.

Excerpted from Borderline Fortune © 2021 Teresa K. Miller. Reprinted with permission of the publisher, Penguin Books. All rights reserved.