Amy Clampitt was born in New Providence, Iowa, in 1924. She graduated from Grinnell College and in 1941 studied at Columbia University and the New School for Social Research. Clampitt worked for Oxford University Press as a secretary and writer, from 1943 to 1951 and as a reference librarian at the National Audubon society from 1952 to 1959. She spent most of the 1960's and 1970's working as a freelance writer, editor, and researcher, and was an editor at E.P. Dutton from 1977 to 1982.
Clampitt's first small collection of poetry was published in 1974, after which her work began to appear regularly in the New Yorker. In 1983, at the age of 63, Clampitt earned acclaim when her first full-length book of poetry, The Kingfisher, was published. She went on to publish many more works of poetry before her death in 1994.