Cooper was born in Atlantic City, New Jersey, spent her early childhood in Jacksonville, Florida, and then moved with her family to Princeton in the mid-1930s. She attended Vassar College from 1942 to 1944, and earned a B.A. from the University of Wisconsin in 1946. In 1953—54 Cooper took a year off to get an M.A. at the University of Iowa, where she studied with Robert Lowell, and John Berryman in the Iowa Writers' Workshop.
Cooper joined the faculty of Sarah Lawrence College, in 1950, and remained as a teacher and poet in residence until her retirement in 1987. She held the post of New York State Poet from 1995 to 1997. She died on October 26, 2007, of complications due to Parkinson's Disease.
This is a beautiful and stubborn book of poems. The poems say only what they mean. They have about them a great deep patience for the whole truth, a waiting in quietness for tremor and explosion.
The Flashboat, The New Yorker:
Cooper handles with equal assurance public statement and private reflection
To perform the alchemical work of translating a human presence into paper and ink: that is the deam of the book, a dream fulfilled her[e], in this beautifully assembled life's work. Jane Cooper has been engaged in a long patient act of making a consideration of self-in-the-world vigorous, humble, and fierce all at once.