Brigit Pegeen Kelly was born in Palo Alto, California, in 1951.
Her first collection of poems, To The Place of Trumpets (1987), was selected by James Merrill for the Yale Series of Younger Poets. Song (BOA Editions), which followed in 1995, was the 1994 Lamont Poetry Selection of the Academy of American Poets. Her third collection, The Orchard (2004), was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry, the Los Angeles Times Book Award in Poetry, and the National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry.
About her work, the poet Stephen Dobyns has said, "Brigit Pegeen Kelly is one of the very best poets now writing in the United States. In fact, there is no one who is any better. Not only are her poems brilliantly made, but they also give great pleasure. Rarely are those two qualities seen together in one poet."
Kelly was the 2008 recipient of the Academy of American Poets Fellowship. Her other honors include a "Discovery"/The Nation Award, the Cecil Hemley Award from the Poetry Society of America, the Theodore Roethke Prize from Poetry Northwest, and a Whiting Writers Award, as well as fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Illinois State Council on the Arts, and the New Jersey Council on the Arts.
Her work has also appeared in several volumes of the Pushcart Prize Anthology and several volumes of The Best American Poetry.
She has taught at the University of California at Irvine, Purdue University, Warren Wilson College, and the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, as well as numerous writers' conferences in the United States and Ireland. In 2002 the University of Illinois awarded her both humanities and campus-wide awards for excellence in teaching. She died in October 2016.