Alexander Long was born in 1972 and raised in Sharon Hill, Pennsylvania. Many of his poems are set in the Delaware County borough that is within earshot of southwest Philadelphia. One of Long's most vivid childhood memories involves watching the burning of Osage Avenue from Calcon Hook Bridge in Darby Township after Philadelphia Mayor Wilson Goode ordered the bombing of the M. O. V. E. compound on Osage Avenue. After twelve years of Catholic schooling, Long attended West Chester University, where he studied with poet Christopher Buckley, and among his classmates were poets Kate Northrop and Karen Skolfield. Also at this time, Long began what became a minor career in music, playing, writing and recording with a number of marginally successful bands.
In 1997 he began work toward a MFA in poetry writing at Western Michigan University, where he studied with Herbert Scott, William Olsen and Nancy Eimers. It was at Western Michigan University where Long also began teaching and working as an editor with Scott at New Issues Press as well as assistant poetry editor, then editor for Third Coast magazine. In 2000, Long was admitted to The Writing Seminars at The Johns Hopkins University, where he studied with Andrew Hudgins, Greg Williamson and John Irwin. Other poets in his class were Beth Bachmann, Jason Gray, Daniel Groves and Elizabeth Hazen. After a year of working for the Siemens Corporation as a technical writer and editor, Long enrolled in the PhD Program in Literature at the University of Delaware, where he studied with poets Fleda Brown, Jeanne Murray Walker and Marilyn Nelson, as well as Shakespearean scholar Lois Potter and Romantic scholar Charles E. Robinson.
On April 15, 2005, Long successfully defended his dissertation on the poetry of Philip Levine and Larry Levis. Two weeks later, his first book of poems, Vigil, would be accepted for publication by New Issues Poetry & Prose, published in 2006. From 2004 to 2007, Long taught first as Adjunct Professor then as Visiting Professor at West Chester University. From 2007 to 2008, he taught at Philadelphia University also as Visiting Professor. In 2008, Long began teaching at John Jay College, The City University of New York, and in 2020 was named Professor of English.
Long's second book of poems, Light Here, Light There, was published by C & R Press in 2009. In 2010, a chapbook, Still Life, won The Center for Book Arts (NYC) Chapbook Competition, selected by Terrance Hayes & Sharon Dolin. His third book of poems, also titled Still Life, won The White Pine Press Poetry Prize in 2011, selected by Aliki Barnstone. Two chapbooks of prose primarily about the work of Larry Levis--Lunch with Larry 2014) and The Widening Spell (2016)--were published by Q Avenue Press. On Distance, his fourth book of poems, was published in 2018 by Stephen F. Austin State University Press.
In addition to being nominated for sixteen Pushcart Prizes, Long has received grants from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, The Prague Summer Seminars and the Professional Staff Congress at the City University of New York. He has been a resident at The Vermont Studio Center, and he has been recognized as a distinguished teacher by West Chester University, Western Michigan University and John Jay College, The City University of New York.