Highlands English Professor’s Poetry Wins Acclaim  

Photo of Tyler Mills

Tyler Mills

Las Vegas, N.M. – A New Mexico Highlands University Department of English professor’s poetry book has won critical acclaim from Publishers Weekly.

Tyler Mills’ poetry book “Hawk Parable” was published in March 2019 by the University of Akron Press after winning the prestigious 2017 Akron Poetry Prize.

“This book is about a family mystery, with my grandfather, a U.S. pilot during the World War II era, claiming to be involved in the mission to drop the atomic bomb over Nagasaki, Japan,” Mills said. “My grandfather died, and I haven’t been able to confirm his role yet through research. His story became the catalyst for my poetry that explores this mystery, as well as the atomic tests in New Mexico, Nevada and the Marshall Islands.”

Publishers Weekly wrote, Mills unlooses documentary evidence of bomb testing, deployment and devastation that intersect with moments of acute self-reckoning … Haunted by the unverified possibility of her fighter-pilot grandfather’s ‘involvement in the Nagasaki mission,’ Mills scans skies for contrails, scrutinizes negatives, reads survivors’ accounts, and sifts through white sands.”

In “Hawk Parable” Mills writes, “I swallow vomit after watching/the islands wart into an orange bulb,” and in another poem, “Gone is the oyster-white rocket/You can’t take it back.”

Publishers Weekly wrote that Mills’ “Hawk Parable” poetry shows that 1950 Nobel Prize Winner William Faulkner was wrong when he said writers had forgotten how to “attend to the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself. Mills proves that Faulkner underestimated a poet’s ability to manage enormous shifts of scale.”

In summary, according to Publishers Weekly, “Mills has written a book for the long nuclear century.”

Mills said her poems in “Hawk Parable” examine the ethics of using atomic weapons, including the horrific impact detonations have upon victims.

Mills has won a number of other awards for her poetry, including her first book, “Tongue Lyre,” the winner of the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award in 2013. Her creative nonfiction won the Copper Nickel Editor’s Prize in Prose.

Mills’ poems have appeared widely in publications such as the New Yorker, Poetry, The Guardian, Kenyon Review and Boston Review. Mills’ poetry is also featured in anthologies like “The Best American Experimental Writing” and “The Book of Scented Things: An Anthology of Contemporary Poetry.”

Mills, who earned her Ph.D. in creative writing from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2015, joined the Highlands faculty the same year. She completed her MFA in poetry from the University of Maryland.

At Highlands, Mills teaches courses such as Introduction to Poetry, Poetry Workshop, Introduction to Creative Writing, and Literary Publishing.

“In my poetry classes, I love inviting students to tell their own stories about family and place. They have such rich perspectives and talented voices,” Mills said.