Jane Hirshfield was born in New York City to Robert Hirshfield and Harriet Hirshfield. Her father was a clothing manufacturer, and her mother was a secretary. From her childhood, Hirshfield wanted to be a writer. After her first book was published, her mother showed Hirshfield a note written on large lined paper from the first grade in which the young Hirshfield had written, “I want to be a writer when I grow up.” Her first poem was published in 1973, after she graduated magna cum laude from Princeton University with an independent major in creative writing and literature in translation. She was part of Princeton’s first graduating class to include women. Despite early publication, she withdrew from the writing life to study at the San Francisco Zen Center for eight years. In 1979, she was lay-ordained in the lineage of Soto Zen and left the life of withdrawal. After that time, Hirshfield devoted her life to writing, translation, and editing, earning numerous awards and grants. From 1991 to 1998, she served as lecturer in creative writing at the University of San Francisco and served as visiting associate professor at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1995. In 1999, she joined the core M.F.A. faculty of Bennington College. In 2000, she was Elliston Visiting Poetry Professor at the University of Cincinnati.