Kim Addonizio was born in Washington, D.C., on July 31, 1954, as one of five children of Pauline Betz Addie, a U.S. tennis champion in the 1940s, and Bob Addie, a sportswriter for the Washington Post. Addonizio moved to San Francisco, California, in 1976, where she worked in a succession of jobs as secretary, waitress, and office clerk. She began writing poetry in her twenties. She earned a bachelor of arts degree from San Francisco State University when she was twenty-eight years old, in the same year that her daughter was born. In 1986, after another four years of part-time classes, Addonizio earned a master's degree in fine arts.
In 1987, Addonizio published several poems in collaboration with two other poets in a book of poetry called Three West Coast Women. She received her first National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) grant in 1990, which gave her the economic freedom to focus on her poetry. At the age of forty, she published her first book of her own poetry, The Philosopher's Club (1994). Subsequently, she won a second NEA grant in 1995 and published Jimmy & Rita, a verse novel, in 1997. She won a Pushcart Prize and the Chelsea Poetry Award in 1998 and was a finalist for the 2000 National Book Award for Poetry for her third collection, Tell Me (2000). She was awarded the James Dickey Prize for poetry in 2001 and the John Ciardi Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003.
"Knowledge" is from Addonizio's 2004 collection, What Is This Thing Called Love. She was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and published her first novel, Little Beauties, in 2005. She has spent most of her adult life living and working in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she has also occasionally taught classes on poetry at regional colleges.