George Economou was born on September 24, 1934, in Great Falls, Montana, to Amelia Ananiadis Economou and Demetrios George Economou, a businessman and rancher, both of whom emigrated to the United States from Greece. After primary and secondary school education in Great Falls, he attended Colgate University, where he majored in English and graduated cum laude and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa in 1956. He earned an M.A. in English Literature at Columbia University in 1957 and a Ph.D. in English and Comparative Literature in 1967, specializing in Old and Middle English and continental literature. He taught for 41 years at the Brooklyn Center of Long Island University (1961—83) and at the University of Oklahoma (1983—2000), where he served as Chair of the Department of English (1983—1990) and Director of Creative Writing (1990—2000). He was a founding editor of "The Chelsea Review" (1957—60) and co-founding editor of "Trobar" and Trobar Books (1960—64) with Robert Kelly .
He has published many books of poetry, translations, and scholarly criticism, and his work has appeared in many literary magazines and scholarly journals. He has lectured and given poetry readings at many universities and literary venues throughout the United States and abroad.
He married poet and playwright Rochelle Owens, June 17, 1962. They live in Philadelphia and Wellfleet, Massachusetts.
His primary archive and papers are held at Columbia University. Smaller collections are held at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and Princeton University.