Lionel Kearns was born in Nelson, British Columbia, in 1937. Growing up as an athlete, musician and student, he spent time in the mountains hiking, boating, fishing and hunting. This background is reflected in his writing.
In 1955, Kearns moved to Vancouver to work on the CPR trains, and to enroll at the University of British Columbia, where he associated with a number of young writers, including George Bowering, Frank Davey and others in the TISH group. His mentors included Earle Birney, Warren Tallman, Elliott Gose, Ron Baker, Jake Zilber and Dorothy Somerset.
In 1964 Kearns moved to England to study structural linguistics in the School of Oriental and African Studies at London University. In 1966, after a year of research on the island of Trinidad, he returned to Vancouver to join the English Department at the then recently opened Simon Fraser University. Kearns was writer-in-residence at Concordia University in Montreal from 1981-82, and the original writer-in-electronic-residence (WIER) in 1988 in the Wired Writers project in Canadian schools. He has also taught in the Creative Writing Department at UBC and at Connect- Ed, the online wing of the New School for Social Research in New York City.
Since his first publication in 1959, Kearns has been steadily producing poetry volumes as well as poems, stories and essays that appear in various magazines and anthologies in Canada and around the world. His work ranges from traditional pieces in print to more experimental and dynamic screen-based forms. Kearns currently writes and develops his art in Vancouver.