Barry O'Donohue was educated in Brisbane and Maryborough. He was conscripted into the Australian Army in 1967 and was then on active service in Vietnam for one year. Later he completed a Bachelor of Commerce degree at the University of Queensland before taking up a position with the Treasury Department. He became interested in poetry at the age of 29, and within the next six years he had published four collections of verse and edited the 1979 Queensland Youth Festival anthology. He was editor of the Queensland periodicals Image and The Border Issue, and he has also edited other anthologies of Queensland poetry.