James Marcus Schuyler was born on November 9, 1923, in Chicago, Illinois. He attended Bethany College from 1941 to 1943 where he studied architecture, history, and literature, before joining the U.S. Navy.
In 1947, Schuyler moved to the Isle of Ischia in Italy for two years, where he lived in the rented house of W.H. Auden and worked as his secretary. Returning to America, Schuyler moved to New York, where he worked in a bookstore and shared an apartment with Frank O'Hara and John Ashbery, poets who later became known as the New York School.
From 1955 to 1961 he was a curator of circulating exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art. As an editorial associate and critic for Art News he wrote a substantial amount of art criticism and came to befriend many New York artists, notably Willem and Elaine de Kooning, Jane Freilicher, and Fairfield Porter.
Between 1961 and 1973, Schuyler lived with Porter and his family in Southampton, Long Island, and their summer home on an island off the coast of Maine. Although well-known and successful by the early 1980s, Schuyler turned to a life of seclusion due to his poor health and financial difficulties. Schuyler lived in New York City until his death in 1991.
Schuyler's books of poetry include Other Flowers (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010); Collected Poems (1995); Selected Poems (1988); A Few Days (1985); The Morning of the Poem (1980), winner of the Pulitzer Prize; The Home Book (1977); The Fireproof Floors of Witley Count: English Songs and Dances (1976); Song (1976); Hymn to Life (1974); The Crystal Lithium (1972); and Freely Espousing (1969); he also wrote novels and plays. His honors include a Longview Foundation award, the Frank O'Hara Prize, two National Academy for the Arts grants, an American Academy award, and an Academy of American Poets fellowship.