Carol Muske-Dukes was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, on December 17, 1945. She received her MA from the State University of San Francisco.
She is the author of nine books of poetry, including Blue Rose (Penguin, 2018), which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; Sparrow (Random House, 2003), which was a National Book Award finalist; and Octave Above Thunder (Penguin Books, 1997).
Her books of prose include two collections of essays and the novels Channeling Mark Twain (Random House, 2008), Life After Death: A Novel (Random House, 2001), Saving St. Germ (Viking Press, 1993), Dear Digby (Viking Press, 1989). Her play, Married to the Icepick Killer: A Poet in Hollywood, was given staged readings in Manhattan and Guild Hall in East Hampton, New York, where she was awarded the distinguished John Drew Fellowship & Residency.
Among her awards are the 1979 Alice Fay Di Castagnola Award of the Poetry Society of America, a 1981 John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts Poetry Fellowship, an Ingram-Merrill grant, a Witter/Bynner Award from the Library of Congress, and several Pushcart Prizes.
A regular writer for the New York Times and the Huffington Post, Muske-Dukes was also the Los Angeles Times poetry columnist for several years, and has taught in the graduate writing programs at Columbia University, the Iowa Writers' Workshop, the University of California at Irvine, and the University of Virginia. In 1972, she founded a prison writing program at the Women’s House of Detention on Riker’s Island that grew into Art Without Walls/Free Space. She is the founder and former director of the PhD Program in Creative Writing and Literature at the University of Southern California, where she is currently a professor of English/Creative Writing.
She lives in Los Angeles, California, where she served as the state poet laureate from 2008 to 2011.