Sitor Situmorang was born in Harianboho, North Sumatra on October 2, 1924 and started his professional writing career as a journalist in North Sumatra at Suara Nasional (1945–1946) and Waspada (1947). Thereafter, he was assigned to Yogyakarta (1947–1948) and later worked for Berita Indonesia and Warta Dunia (1957). During the period 1950–1953, he lived and studied in Amsterdam. In 1954, following his return to Indonesia, he published Surat Kertas Hijau (Green Paper Letters), a collection of poems that served to establish him as a prominent and respected poet.
During the 1950s Sitor actively participated in the ongoing cultural polemic, particularly on the shape and direction of Indonesia culture. He became a prominent member of the Lembaga Kebudayaan Nasional (or LKN, the Institute of National Culture), an institution which was closely tied to Soekarno, the President of Indonesia at the time. In 1967, following the fall of Soekarno in 1965, Sitor was imprisoned and was not released until 1976, without any trial.
Over the decades Sitor has won numerous awards for his work and many of his works have been translated in English, French, Dutch, Chinese, Russian and other languages.