William Mills was born on 17 June 1935 in Hattiesburg. His literary career started with several poetry collections, moved into fiction and then nonfiction, and culminated with complex books about travel, place, and human and cultural interaction with the world. Mills grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; attended Centenary College for a year; and spent two years in the army before earning bachelor’s (1959), master’s (1961), and doctoral (1972) degrees at Louisiana State University. His dissertation was published as Stillness in Moving Things: The World of Howard Nemerov (1975). He has taught at the University of Arkansas and at Oklahoma State University, and he now lives in Columbia, Missouri.
Mills has published poetry (Watch for the Fox , Stained Glass , and The Meaning of Coyotes ), edited a volume on John William Corrington, written books on the Arkansas River and bears, and authored a novel and two collections of short stories. His overall literary impetus is probably best summarized in the closing lines from a poem in his first collection, Watch for the Fox: “Listening is better / Than not listening.” His understanding of and empathy for Mississippi are displayed in “Unemployment,” from the same collection:
A young hound howls.
I am almost slumbering
In a rocking chair.
The soft rain pats
A Mississippi road.
I feel like the road.
- Robert M. Bain and Joseph M. Flora, eds., Contemporary Poets, Dramatists, Essayists, and Novelists of the South: A Bio-Bibliographical Sourcebook (1994)
- Joseph M. Flora and Amber Vogel, eds., Southern Writers: A New Biographical Dictionary (2006)