He was born in Montreal, Quebec, into an Italian heritage. His first poetry collection The New World (1997) was nominated for the 1997 A. M. Klein Prize for Poetry and the 1997 Gerald Lampert Award. His second collection Credo (2000) won the 2001 Canadian Authors Associate Prize for Poetry and the 2001 David McKeen Award for Poetry. He has also written A Lover's Quarrel (2004), a book of essays on Canadian poetry, and With English Subtitles (2004), a third collection of poems. Starnino's fourth collection, This Way Out (2009), was nominated for a Governor General's Literary Award in Poetry.
He is the editor of Signal Editions, and editor-in-chief of Maisonneuve.
Starnino is well known for the provocative nature of his criticism and pointedness of his opinions, which have incited a variety of heated counter-criticisms from other poets andcritiques.
The New World. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1997.
Credo. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2000.