The son of agricultural missionaries, poet Wilmer Mills grew up in Brazil and Louisiana. Mills earned both a BA and MA in theology from the University of the South, and worked at a variety of jobs during his life including carpenter, sawmill operator, baker, farmer, and white water raft guide. He also served as the Kenan Visiting Writer at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Acclaimed as a careful practitioner of form and meter, Mills received praise for the dramatic monologues of his first book, Light for the Orphans (2002). Influenced by poets such as Robert Frost and Richard Wilbur, Mills evoked an older, pastoral landscape and its denizens with skill and sympathy. His poems were published in various journals, including New Criterion, Poetry, New Republic, Hudson Review, and Shenandoah, among others. With his wife and two children, Mills lived and worked in Sewanee, Tennessee in a house he built himself. He died in 2011.