Rosten was born in New York City and grew up in Hurleyville, New York. He was graduated from Brooklyn College and New York University, and the University of Michigan, where he met Arthur Miller. Each won the Avery Hopwood Award.
Among Rosten's work outside the field of poetry, he wrote the libretto for Ezra Laderman's opera "Marilyn". He also wrote the screenplay for the Sidney Lumet's film Vu du Pont, adapting Miller's A View from the Bridge. He visited Mickey Knox in Rome.
Rosten was a poetry consultant for Simon and Schuster Publishers. It was through that role that he came to know fellow poet Andrew Glaze. The two became friends and Glaze later dedicated his book "I am the Jefferson County Courthouse" to Rosten.
His work appeared in The New Yorker.
- Return Again, Traveler, Yale University Press, 1940
- The big road: a narrative poem, Rinehart & Company, Inc., 1946
- Imagine Seeing You Here: a world of poetry, lively and lyrical
- Thrive Upon the Rock, Trident Press, 1965
- Selected Poems. G. Braziller. 1979. ISBN 978-0-8076-0938-5.
- Patricia Rosten Filan, ed. (2004). A City Is. Illustrator Melanie Hope Greenberg. Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-8050-6793-4.
- First Stop to Heaven, 1941
- Mister Johnson. Dramatists Play Service, Inc. 1969. ISBN 978-0-8222-0764-1. (premiere 1956)
- Mardi Gras
- The Golden Door
- Come Slowly, Eden. Dramatists Play Service, Inc. 1967. ISBN 978-0-8222-0228-8.
- Under the Boardwalk, Prentice-Hall, 1968
- Over and Out, G. Braziller, 1972
- Love in All Its Disguises. Arbor House. 1981. ISBN 978-0-87795-324-1.
- Neighborhood Tales. G. Braziller. 1986. ISBN 978-0-8076-1152-4.
- Marilyn: An Untold Story, New American Library, 1973
- Marilyn among Friends, with photographer Sam Shaw. UK: Bloomsbury (1987)
- Cary Nelson, ed. (2002). "The March". The wound and the dream: sixty years of American poems about the Spanish Civil War. University of Illinois Press. ISBN 978-0-252-07070-9.
- MEL GUSSOW (March 9, 1995). "Norman Rosten, 81, Playwright And Brooklyn's Poet Laureate". The New York Times.
- Mickey Knox (2004). The good, the bad, and the dolce vita: the adventures of an actor in Hollywood, Paris, and Rome. Nation Books. ISBN 978-1-56025-575-8.
- Doreski, William, ed. (1985). Earth That Sings: on the poetry of Andrew Glaze. Houston, Texas: Ford-Brown & Co. ISBN 0-918644-16-X.
- Migrants, Immigrants, and Slaves: Racial and Ethnic Groups in America By Thompson Dele Olasiji. p.118.