James Marcus Schuyler was born in Chicago, Il, but he was inspired to write poetry when he moved with his family to East Aurora, NY, outside of Buffalo, when he was 15 years old. The town was the setting for two of his most famous works, The Morning of the Poem and A Few Days, an elegy for his mother.
Schuyler did not write through college, and he bounced from place to place for a while, spending time in New York and Italy. He became a curator of circulating exhibitions at NY's Museum of Modern Art in 1955, and was an associate editor and art critic for Art News. Among the artists he befriended was Fairfield Porter, who invited Schuyler to live with him and his family for twelve years, from 1961-1973. Schuyler appears in several of Porter's portraits, and Porter designed book covers and dust jackets for some of Schuyler's books of poetry. His first major collection, Freely Espousing – published when Schuyler was 46 years old – is dedicated to Anne and Fairfield Porter.
Schuyler received the Longview Foundation Award in 1961, the Frank O'Hara Prize for Poetry in 1969 for Freely Espousing, and the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1981 for The Morning of the Poem. He was a Guggenheim Fellow, and a fellow of the American Academy of Poets.