Gregory Pardlo was born in Philadelphia in 1968 and grew up in Willingboro, New Jersey. His father was an air traffic controller who played a prominent part in a strike of air traffic controllers in 1981, about which Gregory wrote a memoir in 2018 entitled Air Traffic: A Memoir of Ambition and Manhood in America which included a wider exploration of racial issues. Gregory gained a BA from Rutgers University in Camden, New Jersey and a Masters degree in Fine Arts from New York University.
His first volume of poems Totem won the APR/Honickman First Book Prize in 2007, the year his parents separated, and for his collection Digest he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 2015. He has been the recipient of various fellowships and is currently a teaching Fellow at Columbia University, also working at Rutgers University on their MFA programme, having previously taught at several other colleges and universities. He is also an associate editor of the literary journal, Callahoo and poetry editor for the Virginia Quarterly Review.
His poetry has been described as clear-voiced and rich in contemporary thought and ideas with a sensory appeal. It covers a wide range of themes and its form is experimental without metre and rhyme, interwoven with history, myth and allusion and is written in a mixture of earthy and highbrow language.