Sissman was raised in Detroit. He went to private schools, and in 1941 he became a national spelling champion. He was a Quiz Kid.
Near the end of World War II Sissman entered Harvard. He was expelled but returned, graduating in 1949 as Class Poet.
In 1950's, he worked at Prentice-Hall as a copyeditor in New York City.
In the 1960s, he worked at odd jobs, including campaigning for John F. Kennedy. Eventually, he was hired by Quinn and Johnson Advertising, in Boston, and he rose to Creative Vice President. He married Anne, and lived in Still River.
In 1965, he discovered he had Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He fought the disease for a decade. He wrote book reviews and poems for The New Yorker, monthly columns for the Atlantic, and was published in Harper's Magazine.
The poetry of Louis Edward Sissman speaks to us out of midcentury American life with all of the poise and formal elegance of W. H. Auden yet with the joie de vivre of Sissman's Harvard contemporary Frank O'Hara....The influence of Sissman's poetry has now survived into a second generation. The poet Brad Leithauser, born after Sissman graduated from college, declared in The New Criterion that "[Sissman] can serve as a model to every contemporary poet." And Edward Hirsch, in the foreword to Night Music, states, "He provides an example of wit schooled by feeling and deepened by experience, of intellect coming together with restrained but warm underlying emotion, of poetic freedom enabled by expertise."