Floyd was born in Brooklyn, NY, in 1947, and moved to Long Beach, NY, ten years later. He graduated from Franklin & Marshall College with a B.A. in English, and completed an M.A. in English at Southern Illinois University, where he studied with the Irish poet Thomas Kinsella. From 1972 until becoming disabled by viral-borne brain damage in 1988, Floyd worked in the field of public policy in Illinois, Washington, and Oregon. He began publishing poetry in 1970, fiction in 1975, and essays in 1990. His work has appeared in many major literary journals in the US and abroad. His eighteen books have won wide acclaim and numerous awards, and are included in many high school and college curricula. In May, 2006 he received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Franklin & Marshall College.
An Oregonian since 1984, Floyd moved from Portland to rural Amity when he married Beverly Hallberg in 1993. They lived in a cedar yurt in the middle of twenty hilly acres of woods for 13 years before moving back to Portland. Beverly is a weaver and landscape painter, whose light-filled works cross between impressionistic and abstracted styles. Her paintings grace the covers of Floyd's books, Approximately Paradise, The End of Dreams, Selected Poems: 1970-2005, and The Snow's Music.
Floyd's daughter, the nonfiction writer Rebecca Skloot, lives in Chicago, IL. Her book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, was published by Crown Books in February, 2010 and became a 44-week NY Times bestseller in hardback, and continues to be a bestseller in paperback. It was also the winner of the Heartland Prize and Wellcome Trust Book Prize, and was named Best Book of 2010 by Amazon.com. Together, Floyd and Rebecca edited The Best American Science Writing 2011. Her boyfriend, writer and actor David Prete, is the author of Say That to My Face (Norton, 2003) and August and Then Some (Fourth Estate, UK, 2011; Norton, 2012). He is working on his MFA in Theater Directing at Northwestern University. Floyd's stepson, Matthew Coale, lives with his family in Kennewick, Washington.