Born in South Bend, Indiana, Rexroth was homeschooled and grew up in various places in the Midwest. When he was orphaned at the age of 14, he was sent to live with his aunt in Chicago and subsequently enrolled in the Art Institute of Chicago.
He held various odd jobs throughout his youth and traveled extensively before settling in California after meeting his first wife in 1927. Rexroth was subsequently married four times and served as an inspiration to Beat poets like Allen Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti.
Much of Rexroth's poetry is love poetry, and his inspiration often comes from Greek or Asian poets. Transcendental and deep love is the main inspiration in his poetry.