Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book

Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Ralph Mills  

Pen Name: None


Audience: Adult;

Born: December 16, 1931 in Chicago, Illinois

Died: August 18, 2007 in Park Ridge, Illinois

-- Ralph Mills on WorldCat --

Illinois Connection

Mills was a native Chicagoan.

Biographical and Professional Information

Ralph Mills Jr., was an acclaimed poet, scholar and professor. His literary ambitions date to his college years at Lake Forest College; he studied English and published his early work in Tusitala, the College’s literary magazine. After graduation, Mills earned an MA and PhD in English from Northwestern University and studied at Oxford. He led a distinguished academic career, teaching first at the University of Chicago and later becoming the first director of graduate studies in English at the University of Illinois–Chicago, where he taught modern literature and creative writing for more than 30 years.

Published Works Expand for more information

Titles At Your Library

Living With Distance
ISBN: 0918526183

BOA Editions Ltd.. 1994

"What is most compelling about Ralph J. Mills, Jr.'s Living With Distance is the sense the poems had to be written: chaste, sensitive, often deeply meditative, they reveal strongly the poet's essential self. Like all fine books, Living with Distance shows us a man - one we want very much to know."-- Lucien Stryk "Mills's absorption in nature is one of the remarkable features of this book. In virtually every poem - and Mills's subjects range from character portrayals through love, death and life itself - nature is the significant metaphor with which he projects his insights and feelings. It clearly marks him as one of the new voices in our deepening awareness of the role of nature in our lives, and Mills invests this awareness with singular intensity and commitment. Among the new voices he is surely one of the most distinguished."-- David Ignatow "Ralph Mills - better known, til now, as critic than poet - beautifully reveals in these poems how a sensibility can find its precise equivalent in language. There is no hiatus between vision and expression in his work."-- Denise Levertov "Ominous and beautiful, what we call nature haunts the speaker of these poems - ominous: seen suddenly as unmastered beautiful: terrifying with a presence stronger than the meanings we can give it. And so the speaker speaks reverently, as at the beginning of a sacred event, because there the assured animal action of the human body seems almost impossible. The tiniest details of twilight, water, leaves - what are we doing among them? That question, uttered with great sincerity, is at the heart of Living With Distance: its value for me is how close the speaker stays in each movement and tone of the speech of the poems to the actualities: an authentic, sorrowful and humane music whose mood is the speaker's not that frequently literary feeling ventriloquised by the poet through his admiration for somebody else's verse - or, as it has been put: ' ... the rescued fragment ... held up before all eyes in the light of a sincere mood.''-- Stephen Berg

March Light and Other Poems (Vagrom chap book)
ISBN: 0935552154

Sparrow Pr. 1983

For a Day Poems
ISBN: 0933180691

Spoon River Poetry Pr. 1985

Each Branch: Poems, 1976-1985
ISBN: 0933180896

Spoon River Poetry Pr. 1986

A While
ISBN: 0944024130

Spoon River Poetry Pr. 1989

Window in Air
ISBN: 1559210737

Asphodel Press. 1995

A stylistically unique collection of Mills' poetry of nature.

In Wind's Edge
ISBN: 1559211873

Asphodel Press. 1997

In poetry that is spare, seductive, and visually compelling, Ralph Mills observes the natural world around him. Each poem here has a freshness and clarity that is like watching leaves flutter in the breeze. The combination of the poet's intense observations of nature and his daring use of line fragments conveys an elegant, concentrated emotional power.

Grasses Standing: Selected Poems
ISBN: 1559212454

Asphodel Press. 2000

Ralph Mills shows himself a master of the finely-tuned poem in this selection of a lifetime at the craft. Mills observes the natural world around him with intensity. His works describe sights and sounds, and his daring line fragments evoke the particulars of our existence. Each poem is this collection retains a freshness and clarity much like the experience of watching leaves in the sun, or clouds-the same, but always different. The intensity of observation and brevity of form constitutes a highly refined emotional elegance.


Carl Sandburg Prize for Poetry, 1984, for March Light.

Speaking Engagements

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