Rakosi was born in Berlin and moved to the United States to live with his father at the age of seven. He began writing poetry as a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he edited the Wisconsin Literary Magazine. By his early twenties, he had poems published in The Nation and The Little Review. Soon after, he gained the attention of Ezra Pound, who included him in the Objectivist issue of Poetry and the Objectivist Anthology, cementing his inclusion in the rubric of Objectivism.
While Rakosi was wary of the notion of Objectivism, he had much in common with other members of the group, including his abandoning of poetry in the 1940s. He dedicated himself to social work in 1941 and only began to write again after his retirement. In 1968, he published his first book of poems in twenty-six years, which led to reading tours and several more volumes. He continued to write prolifically until his death in 2004 at the age of 100, making him the last surviving member of the Objectivists.