Born in New York City, the son of a Brooklyn dentist, Chester studied at Brooklyn college and at the University of Michigan. Kallman met the poet W.H. Auden and they fell in love.
The love affair between Chester Kallman and W.H. Auden was a passion stronger than any bond. When they met Chester was 18 and Auden 32. Blond haired, tall, Chester was the kind of boy whom teenager girls were crazy for, but also mature men do, he had a look of a brat, and Audent actually called him an ange gauche, a clumsy angel.
Auden loved Chester from that afternoon of 1932 when they met until that night of 1973 in Vienna when he died while he was sleeping. A true marriage, sprangled with furious fightings and tender reconciliations and cruel infedilities.
Kallman was a young and very beautiful poet, and the early idyllic stretches of their affair inspired the most beautiful of modern love poems:
"Warm are the still and lucky miles,
White shores of longing stretch away."
Kallman was bright and warm and lucky, though not at all still, which turned out to be a problem. He was "out" in a way that Auden had never encountered before in someone he saw as a peer - with no self-doubt or even ironic self-inquiry about his sexual tastes.
In two years, Auden went from the furtive English schoolboy's "buggerdom" to the bel-canto opera and camp of Greenwich Village and Fire Island. He and Kallman ended up in drag out on the Island, with Auden dressed up as a cardinal - a Firbank cardinal, but a cardinal.
Kallman signed Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress libretto, together with his lover Auden. Kallman died in Athens, Greece.