A native Californian, Joanne Kyger became part of the San Francisco poetry world in 1957 when she left Santa Barbara where she had attended both high school and the University of California. She arrived at the height of the Howl obscenity trial, where a friend introduced her to The Place, the bar that served as headquarters for Jack Spicer and other poets of the San Francisco Renaissance. At the invitation of Joe Dunn and John Wieners she attended the Sunday Meetings lead by Spicer and Robert Duncan and gave her first reading at the Bread and Wine Mission in 1959.
She then moved to Japan to join Gary Snyder who she had met during his return to California. She lived in Kyoto & also traveled to India with Snyder (joining up with Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky), events that are chronicled in Kyger's Japan and India Journals 1960-64.
After four years she returned to San Francisco in 1964 where her first book was published by Don Allen's Four Season's Press. Further travels took her to Europe and New York City before she settled on the coast north of San Francisco, where she shares a home with the artist and writer Donald Guravich. From there she has made frequent trips to Mexico, the subject of four of her books of poetry.
Kyger has taught at the New College of California in San Francisco and for 30 years at the Summer Writing Program at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado. She has published over 20 books of poetry.
- 2008 - PEN Oakland--Josephine Miles Award in Poetry
- 2007 - Small Press Traffic Lifetime Achievement Award
- 2007 - Marin Arts Council grant recipient
- 2005 & 2006 - Foundation for Contemporary Arts grant recipient
- 1983 - National Poetry Series Winner