Joachim Sartorius was born in Fürth/Bavaria in 1946 and grew up in Tunis. He studied law and political science in Munich, London and Paris and served as a diplomat in New York, Istanbul and Nicosia until 1986. After holding various positions in the field of international cultural policy, he acted as head of the Goethe Institute worldwide. From 2001 to 2011 he has been Director General of the Berlin Festivals.

His wide-ranging publishing projects include translations of the Collected Works of Malcolm Lowry and William Carlos Williams, as well as works by Wallace Stevens, John Ashbery and Allen Curnow, among many other books; book collaborations with the artists James Lee Byars, Emilio Vedova, Nan Goldin and Max Neumann; and highly regarded international poetry anthologies.

His own poetry has been collected in eight volumes, and is now also available in translation in twelve foreign languages. He also published a book of essays and two travelogues The Princes Islands (2008) and The Geccos of Bellapais (2013).