Barry Gifford was born on October 18, 1946, in Chicago, Illinois. His family moved often and lived mostly in hotels, and he cites the characters he encountered in hotel lobbies as an early inspiration to write. He played baseball in high school and enrolled at the University of Missouri on an athletic scholarship, but soon left college to work in Europe as a merchant seaman. In 1965 he settled in London and became friends with musicians in the psychedelic movement, and his first poetry collection, The Blood of the Parade (Silverthorne Press, 1967), was published in London in 1966.
He moved to San Francisco in 1967 to write for Rolling Stone, and he spent the next few decades writing poetry, prose, and journalism. He is the author of over a dozen books of poetry, including Imagining Paradise: New and Selected Poems (Seven Stories Press, 2012), Ghosts No Horse Can Carry: Collected Poems 1967–1987 (Creative Arts Book Company, 1989), and The Boy You Have Always Loved (Talon Books, 1976). He has also written a wide range of novels, screenplays, essay collections, short story collections, and nonfiction. He gained national fame with the publication of his third novel, Wild at Heart: The Story of Sailor and Luna (Grove Weidenfeld, 1990); David Lynch’s film adaptation of Wild at Heart won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival.
Gifford is the recipient of awards from the American Library Association, the National Endowment for the Arts, PEN, and the Writers Guild of America. He lives in Berkeley, California.