In 1959, Eric Pankey was born in Kansas City, Missouri, the son of two accountants. In 1981, he received his BA from the University of Missouri at Columbia, and in 1983, his MFA from the University of Iowa.
When he was 25, his first collection of poems, For the New Year (Atheneum), was selected by Mark Strand as the winner of the 1984 Walt Whitman Award. He then began teaching English at the high school level and writing poetry, essays, and reviews in his spare time. In 1987, Pankey joined the faculty of Washington University at St. Louis, where he served as director of the creative writing program.
He is the author of twelve collections of poems, including Augury (Milkweed Editions, 2017), Crow-Work (Milkweed Editions, 2015), and Trace (Milkweed Editions, 2013).
About him, the poet Jane Hirshfield has said: "Eric Pankey is a poet of precise observation and startling particularities. His poems possess a sense of a self not the least self-regarding; they unbridle us into a freshened and metamorphic wordscape. The soundcraft is superb, the modes of investigation by turns lyrical, surreal, meditative, allegorical, direct-speaking, and allusive."
His honors include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, and the Ingram Merrill Foundation.
He is currently a professor of English and the Heritage Chair in Writing at George Mason University in Washington, D.C. He lives in Fairfax, Virginia.