Gary Catalano was born of Italian and Anglo-Australian parentage and educated at Trinity Grammar School, Sydney. Leaving school in 1963, he worked at a variety of jobs until the late 1970s when, with the support of several grants from the Australia Council, he was able to write full-time.
Catalano's first book of poetry, Remembering the Rural Life, was published in 1978. He published several more books in the 1980s and won the Grace Leven Prize in 1992 for The Empire of Grass. His poetry appeared regularly in Australian periodicals. His Selected Poems was published in 1993. Widely admired for his technical brilliance, Catalano often explored the form of the prose poem, publishing an entire volume of prose poems, Fresh Linen, in 1988.
Catalano was well known as a literary and art critic. He was the art critic for the Melbourne Age between 1985 and 1990 and, in 1997, he held a residency at the Australia Council's Keesing Studio in Paris. He wrote several major books on Australian art and art criticism including The Solitary Watcher: Rick Amor and his Art (2001). Gary Catalano died after a long illness.