Jan Heller Levi was born in New York City in 1954 and grew up in Baltimore, Maryland.
She is the author of Once I Gazed at You in Wonder (1999), which won the 1998 Walt Whitman Award. Her second collection, Skyspeak, was published by Louisiana State University Press in 2005.
She is also the editor of A Muriel Rukeyser Reader (1994), a consulting editor on the reissued Collected Poems of Muriel Rukeyser (2005), and coeditor, with Sara Miles, of Directed by Desire: The Collected Poems of June Jordan (2005).
About Levi's first book, the poet Alice Fulton wrote in the 1998 judge's citation, "Jan Heller Levi's work countervails the implications of this curmudgeonly koan with passional, self-critical intelligence. Ardent yet free of gush, the spontaneity and conversational ease of her poems assure that the quality of wonder, like that of mercy, is not strained. In addition to unguardedness and heart, there is backtalk—bite and edge, lip and lash."
Levi has taught at Sarah Lawrence College, The Unterberg Poetry Center of the 92nd Street, and is a member of the faculty of the MFA Program at Hunter College. She divides her time between New York City and St. Gallen, Switzerland.