David Lehman was born in New York City in 1948. He graduated from Columbia University and attended Cambridge University in England as a Kellett Fellow. He also received a Ph.D. in English from Columbia University. He is the author of several collections of poems, including When a Woman Loves a Man (Scribner, 2005), Jim and Dave Defeat the Masked Man (with James Cummins, Soft Skull Press, 2005), The Evening Sun (2002), The Daily Mirror: A Journal in Poetry (2000), Valentine Place (1996), Operation Memory (1990), and An Alternative to Speech (1986).
His books of criticism include The Last Avant-Garde: The Making of the New York School of Poets (Doubleday, 1998), which was named a "Book to Remember 1999" by the New York Public Library; The Big Question (1995); The Line Forms Here (1992); and Signs of the Times: Deconstruction and the Fall of Paul de Man (1991). His study of detective novels, The Perfect Murder (1989), was nominated for an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America.
He is series editor of The Best American Poetry, which he initiated in 1988, and is general editor of the University of Michigan Press's Poets on Poetry Series.
David Lehman has also edited such books as Ecstatic Occasions, Expedient Forms: 65 Leading Contemporary Poets Select and Comment on Their Poems (1987; expanded, 1996), James Merrill, Essays in Criticism (with Charles Berger, 1983), and Beyond Amazement: New Essays on John Ashbery (1980). Most recently, Lehman edited The Oxford Book of American Poetry (Oxford University Press, 2006).
According to the poet John Hollander, "This increasingly impressive poet keeps reminding us that putting aside childish things can be done only wisely and well by keeping in touch with them, and that American life is best understood and celebrated by those who are, with Whitman, both in and out of the game and watching and wondering at it."
Lehman's honors include fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Ingram Merrill Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts, an award in literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and a Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Writer's Award. He is on the core faculty of the graduate writing programs at the New School and New York University. He lives in New York City.