Amy Clampitt was born to Quaker parents and raised on a farm in Iowa. At Grinnell College, she studied English literature and wrote fiction and poetry. After she graduated from college, she lived mainly in New York City and worked at a variety of jobs, including as a secretary at Oxford University Press, as a reference librarian at the National Audubon Society, and as a freelance writer, editor, and researcher. She was an editor at the E.P. Dutton publishing company from 1977 to 1982. She also served as a writer-in-residence at the College of William and Mary, as a poet-in-residence at Smith College, visiting writer at Amherst College, and as a visiting professor at Washington University. When she was in her forties, she returned to writing poetry. Her first poem was published by The New Yorker in 1978. In 1983, at the age of 63, she published her first full-length collection, The Kingfisher. Her last book, A Silence Opens, appeared in 1994. She also published a book of essays and several privately printed editions of her longer poems. Amy Clampitt edited the volume The Essential Donne (1988).