Lewis Ellingham was born on February 27, 1933, in Fort Wayne, Indiana. From 1947 to 1951, he attended Campion, a now defunct Jesuit boarding school for boys in Wisconsin. He enrolled at Indiana University, but left in his first year. Ellingham spent brief periods living in New York’s Greenwich Village and Chicago’s Hyde Park before moving to the Bay Area in California. He graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1961 with a BA in English and history. In the early 1960s, Ellingham became associated with the writers who developed the San Francisco Renaissance, particularly Jack Spicer.
Ellingham is the author of thirty books, including novels, short stories, works of genealogy, and poetry. Among the latter his books include the two-volume The Collected Poetry and Prose Poems of Lewis Ellingham (Ithuriel’s Spear Press, 2012) and The Birds and Other Poems (Ithuriel’s Spear Press, 2009). In 1983, Ellingham began working on Poet Be Like God: Jack Spicer and the San Francisco Renaissance (Wesleyan University Press, 1998), cowritten with Kevin Killian. He initiated work on the biography of Spicer by interviewing others who were part of the North Beach poetry scene in the early 1960s, including Robert Duncan and Robin Blaser.
In the early to mid-1960s, Ellingham worked as an editor for the Sierra Club. In 1990, he was an organizer of “OutWrite ‘90,” a gay writers’ conference in San Francisco.