Jan Wagner was born in Hamburg, Germany, and lives in Berlin. He studied English and American studies at Hamburg University and at Trinity College Dublin. A literary critic and translator, he is the author of the poetry collections Probebohrung im Himmel (2001); Guerickes Sperling (2004); Achtzehn Pasteten (2007)—“eighteen pies” in translation, which takes its title from Samuel Pepys; and Australien (2010). His work is included in Twentieth-Century German Poetry: An Anthology (2006), edited by Michael Hofmann.
Wagner and poet Björn Kuhligk have coedited two anthologies of German language poetry: Lyrik von Jetzt: 74 Stimmen (2003) and Lyrik von Jetzt zwei. 50 Stimmen (2008). Wagner has also translated the poetry of Charles Simic, James Tate, and Matthew Sweeney into German.
In 2008, Wagner was Max Kade German Writer in Residence at Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio. He has received the Anna Seghers Prize, the Ernst Meister Prize, and the Arno Reinfrank Literature Award.