Mills, Ralph J.

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Ralph J. Mills, Jr. (1931-2007) was a poet, critic and teacher. Born on December 16, 1931 to Eileen and Ralph J. Mills, he grew up in Lake Forest, Illinois and was interested in music and poetry as a child. Mills was educated at Lake Forest College (B.A. 1954) and Northwestern University (M.A. 1956, Ph.D. 1963); he also attended Oxford University during his graduate studies.

Mills began teaching literature in 1957 as a graduate student at Northwestern. Before completing his Ph.D., he moved on to the University of Chicago in 1959, serving on the Committee on Social Thought. It was during his time at University of Chicago that he met Helen Harvey, then a student. They married in 1959. In 1965, Mills left University of Chicago for the University of Illinois-Chicago, where he taught poetry among a variety of other subjects from 1965-1997. He became Professor Emeritus of English in 1997.

As a poet, Mills worked in a terse, observative style influenced by the Objectivist movement. His volumes of poetry won numerous awards, including the the Society of Midland Authors prize for poetry (Living with Distance, 1979), the Carl Sandburg prize for poetry (March Light, 1983) and the Poetry Society of America's William Carlos Williams Award (Grasses Standing: Selected Poems, 2000). Mills is also noted for his critical essays on twentieth-century poets such as Theodore Roethke and Richard Eberhart. A collected volume of these works, Essays on Poetry, was published in 2003. His other books of criticism include Contemporary American Poetry (1965) and Cry of the Human: Contemporary American Poetry (1975); Mills also published editions of Theodore Roethke and David Ignatow.

Mills passed away on August 18, 2007 in Park Ridge, Illinois. He was survived by his wife, Helen Harvey Mills, and their children and grandchildren.

From the guide to the Mills, Ralph J., Jr. Papers, 1918-2009, (Special Collections Research Center University of Chicago Library 1100 East 57th Street Chicago, Illinois 60637 U.S.A.)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn New Directions Publishing Corp. records, ca. 1933-1997. Houghton Library.
creatorOf Mills, Ralph J., Jr. Papers, 1918-2009 Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library,
referencedIn David Ignatow Papers, 1929-1994 University of California, San Diego. Geisel Library. Mandeville Special Collections Library.
referencedIn Parnassus: poetry in review records, 1971-1996 New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division
referencedIn Poetry mss., 1954-2002 Lilly Library (Indiana University, Bloomington)
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
correspondedWith Ignatow, David, 1941- person
associatedWith Modern Poetry Association corporateBody
correspondedWith New Directions Publishing Corp. corporateBody
correspondedWith Parnassus: poetry in review corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country


Birth 1931-12-16

Death 2007-08-18





Ark ID: w66z1ngv

SNAC ID: 10421049