John Hollander was born in New York City on October 28, 1929. He attended Columbia University and Indiana University, and was a Junior Fellow of the Society of Fellows of Harvard University.
He was the author of more than a dozen volumes of poetry, including Picture Window (Alfred A. Knopf, 2003), Figurehead: And Other Poems (Alfred A. Knopf, 1999), Tesserae (Alfred A. Knopf, 1993), Selected Poetry (Afred A. Knopf, 1993), Harp Lake (Alfred A. Knopf, 1988), Powers of Thirteen (Atheneum, 1983), Spectral Emanations (Atheneum, 1978), Types of Shape (Yale University Press, 1969), and A Crackling of Thorns (Literary Licensing, 1958), which was chosen by W. H. Auden for the Yale Series of Younger Poets.
His seven books of criticism include Rhyme's Reason: A Guide to English Verse (Yale University Press, 1981) and The Figure of Echo: A Mode of Allusion in Milton and After (University of California Press, 1981). He also edited numerous books, among them Committed to Memory: 100 Best Poems to Memorize (Turtle Point Press, 1996), which was published in partnership with the Academy of American Poets, and The Library of America's two-volume anthology Nineteenth Century American Poetry (1993). He was coeditor of The Oxford Anthology of English Literature (Oxford University Press, 1973).
In addition, Hollander wrote books for children and collaborated on operatic and lyric works with such composers as Milton Babbitt, George Perle, and Hugo Weisgall.
About his early work, the critic Harold Bloom said, "Hollander's expressive range and direct emotional power attain triumphant expression. I am moved to claim for these poems a vital place in that new Expressionistic mode that begins to sound like the poetry of the Seventies that matters, and that will survive us."
Hollander's many honors included the Bollingen Prize, the Levinson Prize, and the MLA Shaughnessy Medal, as well as fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
A former Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and former poet laureate of Connecticut, he taught at Connecticut College, Hunter College, the City University of New York Graduate Center, and Yale University, where he was the Sterling Professor emeritus of English. He died on August 17, 2013.