Warren is the daughter of novelist, literary critic and Poet Laureate Robert Penn Warren and writer Eleanor Clark. She graduated from Yale University in 1976, with a degree in painting, and then in 1980 received an MA from The Writing Seminars, at Johns Hopkins University. She is currently the Emma MacLachlan Metcalf Professor of the Humanities and a University Professor at Boston University.
Warren's first collection of poetry, Each Leaf Shines Separate (1984), received generally favorable notice in a review in The New York Times. Her next collection, Stained Glass, won the Lamont Poetry Prize for the best second volume published in the U. S. in 1993; in his review, Jonathan Aaron described these poems "tough-minded, beautifully crafted meditations". Warren was awarded the Metcalf Award for Excellence in Teaching at Boston University in 2004. She held a Lannan Foundation Marfa residency in 2005.
In the 2008-09 academic year, Warren was a fellow of the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library.
On December 21, 1981, she was married to Stephen Scully, but is divorced, and has two daughters. Her younger daughter, Chiara Scully, is senior at Yale University, pursuing a writing career of her own. Her poetry has been published in the Seneca Review.
Her other awards include a Pushcart Prize, the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award of Merit in Poetry, the Witter Bynner Poetry Prize (1993), and a Guggenheim Fellowship. She is a member of The American Academy of Arts and Letters and The American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and has served as Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.
Rosanna Warren lives in our tarnished, everyday, ramshackle world of loss, anguish, and sacrifice, but she inhabits almost as vividly a realm of classic purity; and in some of her best, most moving poems she dwells in both regions at once, and within, as it seems, the same breath. It is a beautiful miracle of bilocation.
In Warren’s view, the consolation of either elegy or philosophy is insufficient, and she’s not going to let either herself or her reader forget it. Stained Glass is a work of acute, uncompromising vision.
In the best poems in Rosanna Warren's first book, Each Leaf Shines Separate, her lavish technique is disciplined by her austere moral intelligence. But when the moral faculty fails to chasten the technique, her poems tend toward convoluted syntax and a perverse ingenuity of image.