Bolton was born in Sydney and studied fine arts at the University of Sydney, where he also tutored. In the late 70s he edited the poetry magazine Magic Sam and began the small press Sea Cruise Books with Anna Couani. His first book of poems, Four Poems, was published in 1977. In 1982 he moved to Adelaide to work at the Experimental Art Foundation.
He has since edited the literary magazine Otis Rush and collaborated with poet John Jenkins on a number of books of poetry. His Selected Poems was published by Penguin in 1992 and he edited Brandl & Schlesinger's Homage to John Forbes. His criticism has appeared in Photofile, Art and Text, Art Monthly and Art & Australia among other periodicals; and Wakefield Press has published his monograph on the contemporary sculptor Michelle Nikou.
His latest collection (At The Flash & At The Baci, 2006) has been described as "prov[ing] to us that Ken Bolton is a prime example of a poet breaking new ground in Australian poetry."