Born in Somerville, New Jersey, Wylie's family was socially prominent, though her childhood was surrounded by tumult. Her mother was unstable, her father had a mistress, and one of her brother's committed suicide (two other siblings attempted). Wylie suffered from high blood pressure throughout her life, which precipitated her early death by a stroke at the age of 43. Wylie was raised to be a debutant and society woman.
Wylie's personal life throughout her adulthood was surrounded in scandal. She had three husbands, the second of which was the lawyer Horace Wylie, who encouraged her literary career.
Wylie's literary life was jump-started in 1916, when she and Horace moved to New York City. Wylie began to move in literary circles and achieved literary success with her poem "Velvet Shoes," which was published in Poetry magazine in 1920 and has been reprinted in poetry anthologies ever since.
Her 1921 volume Nets to Catch the Wind is considered by some to be her best collection of poetry, though she published several novels and volumes of poetry afterward and continued to stay in the public eye. She said that she used a "small clean technique" in writing her poetry, and her poems are often miniaturist, meaning that they are short and well-polished.