Born and raised in Chicago, Maxine Chernoff earned a BA and an MA from the University of Illinois. Winner of the PIP Gertrude Stein Award for Innovative Poetry in 2006, Chernoff, in an innovative, post-modern approach, often utilizes prose forms. Her collections of poetry include A Vegetable Emergency (1977); Utopia TV Store: prose poems (1979); New Faces of 1952 (1985), winner of the Carl Sandburg Award; Leap Year Day: New and Selected Poems (1990); and World: Poems 1991–2001 (2001).

Chernoff’s poems can be surreal, witty, and politically engaged. In a review of World for Jacket Magazine, Rachel Loden found that “wit cuts in and out of the melodic surge and flow” of the volume. Chernoff references Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz and employs epigraphs from Ralph Waldo Emerson in one section, prompting Loden to note “the impressionistic structures of these poems, their hops and skips across a rippling surface that suggests the freedoms and pleasures of hypertext.”

Chernoff has also written fiction, and her short story collection Signs of Devotion was a New York Times Notable Book in 1993. Her translations, with Paul Hoover, of the work of Friedrich Hölderlin won the PEN Center USA Translation Award.

She is an editor of the journal New American Writing and a professor at San Francisco State University.