Roger McDonald was born in 1941 at Young, in the South West Slopes region of New South Wales, the son of a historian, Lorna McDonald, and a Presbyterian minister, Hugh Fraser McDonald. He attended schools in Temora and Bourke before completing his education in Sydney at The Scot’s College, and the University of Sydney, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Diploma of Education in 1962. In the early 1960s he worked as a secondary school teacher, before becoming a producer and director of educational programs for ABC radio and television, working in Hobart and Brisbane. In 1969 McDonald became poetry editor for University of Queensland Press, staying with the publisher until 1976. In this position he played an important role in fostering the ‘New Australian Poetry’, publishing ‘Generation of ’68’ poets as part of a diverse and strong poetry list. During McDonald’s time with UQP the press published volumes by David Malouf, Thomas Shapcott, Judith Rodriguez, John Tranter, Robert Gray, Rodney Hall, Jennifer Maiden, Vicki Viidikas, and Michael Dransfield, among others. In 1976 McDonald left UQP and moved to Canberra, where he took up writing full-time. Since 1980 he has lived mainly near Braidwood, New South Wales, spending periods in Sydney and New Zealand.
McDonald began publishing his poetry in the early 1960s, with his work appearing in a number of literary periodicals including Drylight, Westerly, Poetry Australia, Overland, Meanjin and Makar. His first poetry collection Citizens of the Mist was published in 1968 and a further collection Airship appeared in 1975. After taking up writing full-time in the late 1970s McDonald has concentrated on writing fiction; he is the author of nine novels including 1915: A Novel (1979) and The Ballad of Desmond Kale (2005) – winner of the Miles Franklin award in 2006.Poetry Collections
- Citizens of Mist (St Lucia, Qld: University of Queensland Press, 1968).
- Airship (St Lucia, Qld: University of Queensland Press, 1975).
- Peter Annand, ‘A Near Miss,’ Makar 5.1 (1968), pp. 47–48.
- Morag Fraser, ‘ “A Feeling for Time”: A Conversation with Roger McDonald,’ Meridian 19.1 (2007), pp. 90–106.
- Ken L. Goodwin, ‘The Mimetic, The Subjective, and the Surreal in Some Recent Poetry,’ Makar 11.2 (1975), pp. 44–52.
- Warwick Gould, ‘A Direct Hit or a Defence of Poetry,’ Makar 5.3 (1969), pp. 33–36.
- Roger McDonald, ‘Imbibing Culture at the Royal Exchange,’ in Craig Munro, ed., UQP: The Writer’s Press 1948–1998 (St Lucia, Qld: University of Queensland Press, 1998), pp. 75–83.
- Roger McDonald, Roger McDonald and Geoff Page. Australian Poets on Tape. (St Lucia, Qld: University of Queensland Press, 1975), cassette.
- Thomas Shapcott, ‘Poets Today,’ Australian Book Review 9.10 (1970), pp. 277–79.