Ted Enslin was born in Chester, Pennsylvania. His father was a noted biblical scholar and his mother a teacher of Latin. He studied musical composition at Cambridge, Massachusetts with Nadia Boulanger, who recognized his ability as a writer and encouraged him to pursue his interest in poetry. He has said "I like to be considered as a composer who happens to use words instead of notes." Hs first book, The Work Proposed, was published by Origin in 1958.
Enslin moved to Maine in 1960 and has lived in Washington County ever since, working at odd jobs and making and selling handmade walking sticks. The Maine landscape forms an integral part of his poetry, as does the isolation, both geographic and in terms of distance from literary fashion and the academy. Ranger (1978) is regarded as one of the key American long poems of the second half of the 20th century.