Brad Edward Leithauser was born in Detroit, Michigan, the son of a lawyer and a university professor cum children’s literature writer. Leithauser was educated at Cranbrook School, a private college preparatory boarding school outside Detroit, and then Harvard College (B.A., 1975) and Harvard Law School (J.D., 1980). He met his wife, the poet Mary Jo Salter, in a writing class at Harvard. The couple had two daughters.
Leithauser has taught at Amherst College, the University of Iceland (as a Fulbright lecturer), and Mount Holyoke College (1987-2007). He became a professor in the Writing Seminars at The Johns Hopkins University in 2008, where his wife has been a professor in the Writing Seminars since 2007. An endearing feature of his life as a poet is his willingness to play poetry games in public. He played against the poet Paul Muldoon in a friendly speed-writing competition, QuickMuse. He and his wife, Salter, competed publicly against each other in a similar game as to who could write the best poem on a set subject in fifteen minutes. They proclaimed the outcome a draw. He has made many public appearances, including on National Public Radio. He is not an ivory-tower academic, though his resume might suggest otherwise. He is the uncle and godfather of Hamilton Leithauser, lead singer of The Walkmans. He has lived in Japan, Iceland, France, England, Italy, and Thailand, and he has traveled widely, including to Brazil and to the Micronesian island of Pohnpei (Ponape in Darlington’s Fall).