Joseph O'Dwyer was educated at St. Joseph's College, Gregory Terrace, Brisbane, and at the University of Queensland, where he gained a Bachelor of Arts degree. He was later a public servant and a teacher at Rockhampton Grammar School, 1938-1940. O'Dwyer was already writing poetry and in contact with other Queensland writers such as Paul Grano , James Devaney , and C. B. Christesen (qq.v.).
In January 1941 he returned to Melbourne where he lived for the rest of his life with his wife and a large family. Initially O'Dwyer worked as a public servant in the Department of the Navy's Medical Branch and in 1946 became an English master at Xavier College where he remained until forced into retirement by ill health in 1963. He gave great encouragement to Philip Martin (q.v.), one of his students, who went on to become an accomplished poet. O'Dwyer came into prominent notice with the poem 'The Trojan Doom' which won the C.J. Dennis Memorial Prize in 1941. This poem is, in part, 'the memorial for a dead airman'; O'Dwyer's brother was lost in action early in World War II. The author of a number of volumes of poetry, he also contributed to the Bulletin, Meanjin Papers, Angry Penguins, and other literary periodicals. O'Dwyer's Collected Poems appeared in 1987. In his Foreword Philip Martin observes that O'Dwyer 'was brought up (and remains) a Catholic, and both the Classicism and the Christianity permeate his poems' (13).
Note: some reference works incorrectly list O'Dwyer's second given name as 'Henry'.
(Source: J. H. Hornibrook Bibliography of Queensland Verse With Biographical Notes (1953): 58; Philip Martin, 'Foreword', Joseph O'Dwyer Collected Poems 1930-1981 (1987): 12-15).