Born in Germany, Cruz grew up in northern California. The first of her family to attend college, her father is Mexican-American and was a field worker. Her mother is German. She earned her B.A. at Mills College. She earned her M.F.A. at Sarah Lawrence College as well as an MFA in Art Writing & Criticism at the School of Visual Arts. She has published essays, book and art reviews in the LA Review of Books, Hyperallergic, the American Poetry Review, and the Rumpus. She currently lives in Brooklyn and teaches writing at Sarah Lawrence College.  She has previously taught at the Juilliard School, Fordham University, the Rutgers-Newark MFA Program and Eugene Lang College.
Her first collection of poems, Ruin, was published by Alice James Books in 2006, and reviewed by The New York Times Sunday Book Review, Library Journal and received a starred review from Publishers Weekly. Her second collection The Glimmering Room was published by Four Way Books and launched at the contemporary art gallery Hansel and Gretel Picture Garden; it was also reviewed by the New York Times alongside the poet C. K. Williams. Her third collection, Wunderkammer, was published in 2014 by Four Way Books. She has published poems in numerous literary journals and magazines including The New Yorker AGNI, The American Poetry Review, Boston Review, Denver Quarterly, Guernica and The Paris Review, and in anthologies including Isn't it Romantic: 100 Love Poems by Younger Poets (Wave Books, 2004), and The Iowa Anthology of New American Poetries, edited by poet Reginald Shepherd (University of Iowa Press, 2004). She is the recipient of fellowships from Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony, and Princeton University. In 2010 she was the Hodder Fellow in Poetry at Princeton University.
- "Two Poems". Guernica. February 2, 2009.
- "Poetry Foundation". Retrieved July 26, 2016.
- "Ruin". Alice James Books. Retrieved March 11, 2013.
- "The Glimmering Room by Cynthia Cruz". Four Way Books. Retrieved March 11, 2013.
- Latimer, Quinn (November–December 2012). "The Year in Books". Frieze (151).
- Jennings, Dana (December 31, 2012). "Poets Who Look Death in the Eye". The New York Times.
- Cruz, Cynthia (February 1, 2010). "Diagnosis". The New Yorker.
- Cruz, Cynthia. "My Heart is the Smallest Catafalque". AGNI Online. Retrieved March 11, 2013.
- The American Poetry Review. 37 (6). November–December 2008. Missing or empty
- "Index of MacDowell Fellows". The MacDowell Colony. Retrieved March 11, 2013.
- "Cynthia Cruz". Lewis Center for the Arts, Princeton. Retrieved March 11, 2013.