Louise Bogan was born in Livermore Falls, Maine. Her parents, of Irish descent, travelled across New England in search of work and endured a tempestuous marriage. One of Bogan's brothers was killed in the First World War, while another died of alcoholism in his early 30s. Bogan attended Boston University for a year. After a brief, failed marriage, she settled in New York's Greenwich Village, became part of its vital literary life, and began publishing her intense but highly formal poetry in little magazines. In 1925, she married wealthy poet and editor Raymond Holden, but he lost his money in the stock market crash. After he became managing editor of The New Yorker, Bogan became poetry editor for the magazine, a post she held from 1931-1969. In addition to choosing poems for publication, she wrote two omnibus poetry reviews each year. Given the magazine's high rate of pay for poetry and its prestige, this position was a visible and influential one; Bogan was thus better known to some as a critic than as a poet.
She rejected any active involvement in the series of social and political concerns that moved so many of her contemporaries, but she was nonetheless acutely aware of gender issues. "I am a woman, and `fundamental brainwork,' the building of logical structures, the abstractions, the condensations, the comparisons, the reasonings, are not expected of me," she wrote in a 1930s journal. In her last decades, Bogan began to teach more regularly. She also did translations and published critical books. Her disciplined methods of composition and her exacting standards limited her output to 105 poems, but they are notable both for their craft and their fervor.