She received her B.A. from Northwestern University in 1967, and returned there to teach in 1975. She won Fulbright and Woodrow Wilson fellowships to do graduate work at the Free University of Berlin and Johns Hopkins University.
Most recently, Kinzie won the Folger Shakespeare Library's 2008 O. B. Hardison, Jr. Poetry Prize, the only major American prize to recognize a poet for teaching as well as writing.