Clewell was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey in 1955. He graduated from University of Wisconsin with a B.A in English. In 1979, he moved to St. Louis, Missouri and earned an M.F.A. in writing from Washington University. In 1985, Clewell began teaching in the English Department at Webster University. A year later, he started the Webster University Visiting Writers Series, which he still coordinates.
As an instructor at Webster University, Clewell teaches courses on 19th- and 20th-century literature, as well as poetry workshops and seminars. In 2010, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon noted that Clewell "has a unique perspective on contemporary American life and the characters and ideas that loom large in our recent history."
Clewell is the author of 7 poetry collections and his work has appeared in over 50 journals and magazines, including Harper's, Poetry, The Kenyon Review, The Missouri Review, The Georgia Review, Ontario Review, New Letters, and Yankee. He has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize for poetry seven times.
- Pollak Poetry Prize for Now We're Getting Somewhere
- Lavan Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets
- 1989 National Poetry Series, for Blessings in Disguise
- Room to Breathe. Pentagram Press. 1976. ISBN 978-0-915316-30-4.
- Blessings in Disguise. Penguin Books. 1991. ISBN 978-0-14-058672-5.
- Now We're Getting Somewhere. University of Wisconsin Press. 1994. ISBN 978-0-299-14414-2.
- The conspiracy quartet. Garlic Press. 1997. ISBN 978-0-9643009-2-7.
- Jack Ruby's America. Garlic Press. 2000. ISBN 978-0-9643009-3-4.
- The Low End of Higher Things. University of Wisconsin Press. 2003. ISBN 978-0-299-18574-9.
- Taken Somehow By Surprise. University of Wisconsin Press. 2011. ISBN 978-0-299251-14-7.
- Naomi Shihab Nye, Paul B. Janeczko, eds. (1999). "Goodbye Note to Debbie Fuller: Pass It On". I Feel a Little Jumpy Around You: Paired Poems by Men & Women. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 978-0-689-81341-2.
- Laure-Anne Bosselaar, ed. (1999). Outsiders: poems about rebels, exiles, and renegades. Milkweed Editions. ISBN 978-1-57131-409-3.
- Billy Collins, ed. (2003). Poetry 180: a turning back to poetry. Random House Trade Paperbacks. ISBN 978-0-8129-6887-3.
- Jack Elliott Myers Jack Elliott Myers, Roger Weingarten, eds. (2005). New American poets. David R. Godine Publisher. ISBN 978-1-56792-302-5.
- "David Clewell: Poet Laureate of Missouri" (2011). Webster University News and Events. Retrieved October 23, 2012.
- "About David Clewell" (2010). StlToday.com. Retrieved October 23, 2012.
- "Gov. Nixon appoints David Clewell Poet Laureate of Missouri" (2010). Office of Missouri Governor Jay Nixon. Retrieved October 23, 2012.
- "Faculty" (n.d.). Webster University English Department. Retrieved October 23, 2012.
- "Clewell, David (1955-)" (1994). Harper's Magazine.
- Table of contents. Poetry Magazine (August 1992).
- Table of contents. Poetry Magazine (March 2000).
- "David Clewell" (n.d.). The Missouri Review online.