Nervo was born in Tepic, Nayarit. His father died when he was 13. He was a journalist for a living. He founded in 1898, along with Jesús Valenzuela, La Revista Moderna ("The Modern Review"). He spent the first years of the 20th century in Europe, particularly in Paris. He then moved back to Mexico, where he was appointed plenipotentiary minister in Argentina and Uruguay.
In 1901 while he was in Paris he met and married Ana Cecilia Luisa Dailliez. They lived happily until her untimely death in 1912. Out of his grief and desperation, Nervo wrote his most important work, "La Amada Inmóvil" ("The Motionless Loved One"), published posthumously in 1922.
He is perhaps the most important Mexican poet of the nineteenth century.
The house where he was born is now a museum and is situated on a street that bears his name.