Michael Andersen was born in 1930 in the Yorkshire town of Mytholmroyd in England. His home backed onto a canal, while close by was the main road from the Yorkshire woolen towns to the cotton centers of Lancashire over the Pennine hills. This landscape was indelibly to shape Michael's future poetry as he struggled to create a usable language that could accommodate poetry and literature to the demands of an increasingly post-literate society.
In the 1950s, Michael went to Pembroke College, Cambridge, where he started to "read" English but changed to anthropology as he felt that the academic study of English literature conflicted with his search for poetic creativity. It was at Cambridge in 1956 that Michael met the American poet Sylvia Plath, whom he later married. The marriage produced a son and a daughter before Plath's suicide in 1963.
He was named Poet Laureate of England in 1985, a post he held until his death in 1998, the same year he published Birthday Letters, a series of meditations on and responses to his late wife.