Louis Coxe was born in Manchester, New Hampshire and educated at St. Paul’s School and earned a BA at Princeton University. He served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. After the war, he returned to writing poetry and plays. His stage adaptation of Herman Melville’s Billy Budd appeared on Broadway in 1951.

Coxe’s poetry collections include The Sea Faring (1947), The Second Man (1955), The Wilderness (1958), The Middle Passage (1960), The Last Hero (1965), Passage: Selected Poems 1943–1978 (1979), and The North Well (1985). His poems, reviews, and essays appeared in Poetry magazine, the New Yorker, the New Republic, Paris Review, and Atlantic Monthly. Coxe’s poems, which Howard Nemerov described as "terse, cryptic, almost savage in their beauty," often address the beauty of New England.

Coxe taught at Princeton University, Harvard University, the University of Minnesota, and Bowdoin College.