Edward Hirsch was born in Chicago on January 20, 1950 and educated both at Grinnell College and the University of Pennsylvania, where he received a PhD in folklore.
His first collection of poems, For the Sleepwalkers (Knopf), was published in 1981 and went on to receive the Lavan Younger Poets Award
from the Academy of American Poets and the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Award from New York University. His second collection, Wild Gratitude (Knopf, 1986), received the National Book Critics Circle Award.
Since then, he has published several books of poems, most recently The Living Fire: New and Selected Poems (Knopf, 2011); Special Orders (Knopf, 2008); Lay Back the Darkness (Knopf, 2003); On Love (Knopf, 1998); Earthly Measures (Knopf, 1994); and The Night Parade (Knopf, 1989).
He is also the author of the prose volumes The Demon and the Angel: Searching for the Source of Artistic Inspiration (Harcourt, 2002), Responsive Reading (University of Michigan Press, 1999), and the national bestseller How to Read a Poem and Fall in Love with Poetry (Harcourt, 1999), which the poet Garrett Hongo called "the product of a lifetime of passionate reflection" and "a wonderful book for laureate and layman both." Most recently, he published Poet's Choice (Harcourt, 2007), which collects two years' worth of his weekly essay-letters running in the Washington Post Book World.
About his poetry, the poet Dana Goodyear wrote for the Los Angeles Times Book Review, "It takes a brave poet to follow Homer, Virgil, Dante, and Milton into the abyss . . . Hirsch's poems [are] compassionate, reverential, sometimes relievingly ruthless."
Hirsch’s honors include an Academy of Arts and Letters Award, an Ingram Merrill Foundation Award, a Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Writers' Award, the Rome Prize from the American Academy in Rome, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
He has been a professor of English at Wayne State University and the University of Houston. Hirsch is currently the president of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.
In 2008, he was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. He lives in New York City.