Elsa Grave was born in the province of Scania (Skåne), Sweden. She graduated from Lund University in 1941 and took lessons in musical composition. She became a student at the Isaac Grünewald painting school in Stockholm, where she came into contact with artists and poets. In 1943, she published her first book of poetry, Inkräktare; but her breakthrough was her third collection, Bortförklaring (Excuse, 1948), which established her as one of Sweden’s earliest modernists. She went on to produce more poetry as well as award-winning novels and plays. Following separation from her husband, with whom she had three daughters, she lived for a while on the island of Capri. She returned to Sweden in the mid-1950s.