Alicia Ostriker was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1937. Ostriker received a BA from Brandeis University in 1959 and an MA and PhD in literature, in 1961 and 1964 respectively, from the University of Wisconsin–Madison.
She is the author of sixteen poetry collections, including The Volcano and After: Selected and New Poems, 2002-2019 (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2020); Waiting for the Light (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2017), which received the 2017 Berru Award in Memory of Ruth and Bernie Weinflash from the Jewish Book Council; The Old Woman, the Tulip, and the Dog (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2014); At the Revelation Restaurant and Other Poems (Marick Press, 2010); The Book of Seventy (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2009); The Volcano Sequence (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2002); The Little Space: Poems Selected and New, 1968-1998 (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1998) which was a finalist for the 1999 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize; The Crack in Everything (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1996), which was a National Book Award finalist and won both the Paterson Poetry Award and the San Francisco State Poetry Center Award; and The Imaginary Lover (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1986), winner of the William Carlos Williams Award of the Poetry Society of America. Ostriker is also the subject of the essay anthology Everywoman Her Own Theology (University of Michigan Press, 2020).
Her numerous books of critical writing include Dancing at the Devil's Party: Essays on Poetry, Politics and the Erotic (University of Michigan Press, 2000), The Nakedness of the Fathers: Biblical Visions and Revisions (Rutgers University Press, 1994), and Stealing the Language: The Emergence of Women's Poetry in America (Beacon Press, 1986). She received a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1976.
About Ostriker, the author Joyce Carol Oates writes, "[She] has become one of those brilliantly provocative and imaginatively gifted contemporaries whose iconoclastic expression, whether in prose or poetry, is essential to our understanding of our American selves."
In 2015, Ostriker was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and she serves as an ex officio member of the Academy's Board of Directors. She is professor emerita of English at Rutgers University, and a faculty member of the Drew University's low-residency poetry MFA program. In 2018, she was named New York Poet by Governor Andrew Cuomo. Ostriker served as Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 2015 to 2021. She lives in New York City.