Howard Moss was the son of David and Sonya (Schrag) Moss. When he was still a young child, his grandfather and grandmother were brought over from “the old country”—Lithuania. As a consequence, Moss writes, “I grew up in a middle-class community but was really under the care of my two grandparents, who were of another flavor unmistakably.” In spite of this background, Moss was one of an increasing number of contemporary poets identified with the city and with urban life. Much of his poetry concerns itself with the metropolis—with New York City—both its moments of beauty and its moments of bleakness.
After attending public school and high school in Belle Harbor, New York, Moss studied at the University of Michigan from 1939 to 1940, then transferred to the University of Wisconsin, where he received his B.A. degree in 1944. Other formal education included a summer at Harvard University in 1942 and postgraduate work at Columbia University in 1946.
After college, Moss worked for one year (1944) for Time magazine as a copy boy and, later, as a book reviewer. Following a short period with the Office of War Information, he was an English instructor at Vassar College for two years, served one year as fiction editor of Junior Bazaar, and, finally, joined the editorial staff of The New Yorker in 1948. He was poetry editor for the magazine until his death in 1987 at the age of sixty-five.