Sylvia Kantaris studied French at Bristol University and taught in Bristol and London. She lived in Australia from 1962 until 1973 and during her stay, she completed her M.A. and Ph.D. theses on French surrealism at the University of Queensland and also worked there as a French tutor.
After settling in Cornwall in 1974, she tutored twentieth-century poetry for the Open University from 1976 to 1984. In 1986 she was appointed Cornwall's first Writer in the Community, and in 1989 received an honorary D.Litt. from Exeter University.