Sarah Kirsch was born Ingrid Bernstein in Limlingerode, Germany, and spent most of her childhood in Halberstadt in central Germany. She is said to have changed her first name to Sarah as a symbolic protest against anti-Semitism. She received a degree in biology from the University of Halle in 1959 and studied literature at the Johannes R. Becher Institute for Literature in Leipzig. In 1965, she married Rainer Kirsch, a writer; the marriage was short-lived. Her first published works were radio plays and her first volume of poetry, Gespräch mit dem Saurier, appeared in 1965. She moved to East Berlin and had a son with avant-garde writer Karl Michel. She signed a petition in support of Wolf Biermann, a singer-songwriter expelled by the East German authorities in 1976, which led to her ouster from the Socialist Party and the GDR Writer's Association. The pressure on her caused her to leave for the West. She settled in Tielenhemme in the north German province of Schleswig-Holstein. Although she's known mainly as a poet, she also wrote prose and translated children's books into German. She won numerous prizes and honors for her work, including the German international literary Petrarca-Preis in 1976, the Peter-Huchel Prize in 1993 and the Georg Büchner Prize in 1996.