Edward Merton Dorn attended a one-room schoolhouse for most of his first eight grades. The poet he read most frequently was James Whitcomb Riley, whose writing appeared in the local newspapers because he was from the neighboring state of Indiana. Dorn attended the University of Illinois, Urbana, and Black Mountain College, where he graduated in 1955. At Black Mountain College, in a liberal, creative environment, Dorn was associated with the rector Charles Olson, the poets Robert Creeley, Robert Duncan, Joel Oppenheimer, John Weiners, and Paul Blackburn, as well as the painter Franz Kline, the composer John Cage, and many other stimulating people. He held such disparate jobs as those of a logger in Washington State and a reference librarian at New Mexico State University in Santa Fe. During the mid-1960’s, he was the editor of Wild Dog magazine.
In 1969, he married Jennifer Dunbar, and they had a son, Kidd, and a daughter, Maya. For the last two decades of his life, he led the University of Colorado’s creative writing program. In his later years, Dorn was much concerned, in his writing and teaching, with the culture and geography of the West, writing numerous essays on the subject that were eventually collected in Way West: Stories, Essays, and Verse Accounts, 1963-1993 (1993). He died of pancreatic cancer on December 10, 1999, in Denver, Colorado.