Kunitz was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, where he grew up; he studied at Harvard College, receiving a BA in 1926 and an MA in 1927. He then moved to New York, taking a job with the H. W. Wilson company as an editor of the Wilson Library Bulletin; he also began at this time the work of collaboration with Howard Haycraft on four important biographical dictionaries of English and American authors. His first book of poems, Intellectual Things (1930) was barely recognized, and Kunitz did not publish his second book, Passport to War, for another fourteen years. The Second World War interrupted his career as editor, and when he was released from the army he joined the faculty of Bennington College, the first of several academic jobs. Real recognition came slowly to Kunitz, culminating in his receiving the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1958 for his first Selected Poems.