Jane Cooper was born in Atlantic City, New Jersey, on October 9, 1924. She spent her early childhood in Jacksonville, Florida and then moved with her family to Princeton in the mid-1930s. She attended Vassar College from 1942 to 1944, and earned a BA from the University of Wisconsin in 1946. She received her master's degree from the University of Iowa in 1954 where she studied with Robert Lowell and John Berryman.
She is the author of five books of poetry: Flashboat: Poems Collected and Reclaimed (W. W. Norton & Company, 1999); Green Notebook, Winter Road (1994), which was a finalist for the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize; Scaffolding: Selected Poems (1993); Maps and Windows (1974); and The Weather of Six Mornings (1969), which was the Lamont Poetry Selection of The Academy of American Poets.
About her collected poems in The Flashboat, Mark Doty has written: "To perform the alchemical work of translating a human presence into paper and ink: that is the deam of the book, a dream fulfilled her, in this beautifully assembled life's work. Jane Cooper has been engaged in a long patient act of making a consideration of self-in-the-world vigorous, humble, and fierce all at once."
She also coedited The Sanity of Earth and Grass: Complete Poems of Robert Winner (1994) and Extended Outlooks: The Iowa Review Collection of Contemporary Women Writers (1982).
She received an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Shelley Memorial Award, and fellowships from the Bunting Institute of Radcliffe College, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Ingram Merrill Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Cooper joined the faculty of Sarah Lawrence College in 1950, and remained as a teacher and poet in residence until her retirement in 1987. She held the post of New York State Poet from 1995 to 1997. She died on October 26, 2007, of complications due to Parkinson's Disease.