Lisa Olstein grew up near Boston, Massachusetts. She received a BA from Barnard College and an MFA from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. Her first book of poems, Radio Crackling, Radio Gone (2006), won the Copper Canyon Press Hayden Carruth Award. Olstein is also the author of the poetry collections Lost Alphabet (2009), named one of the nine best poetry books of the year by Library Journal, and Little Stranger (2013). Her poems have appeared in the Iowa Review, Denver Quarterly, LIT, and other journals. She has been awarded a Pushcart Prize and fellowships from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and Centrum.

Singer-songwriter Jeffrey Foucault put her poems and lyrics to music on the full-length album Cold Satellite (2010); the album was ranked #1 by Greil Marcus on his Real Life Rock Top Ten list in The Believer magazine.

Olstein co-founded and for ten years co-directed the Juniper Initiative for Literary Arts and Action at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. She teaches in the New Writers Project at the University of Texas-Austin.