Brasch was born in Dunedin, the son of lawyer Hyam Brasch (who later changed his name to Henry Brash) and Helene Fels, a member of the prominent Hallenstein family of clothing merchants. He began writing poetry at Waitaki Boys' High School and entered St John's College, Oxford, in 1927 where he gained an 'ignominious third' in Modern History (to his father's disappointment). His contemporaries at Oxford included W. H. Auden and Cecil Day-Lewis.
Brasch spent some time working in and studying the field of archaeology before returning to Dunedin in 1931. With private means, he travelled widely in Europe, Asia and the Americas during the 1930s. He spent the Second World War in Britain as a firewatcher and intelligence officer having been exempted from active service on medical grounds.
Brasch returned to New Zealand in 1946, settling in Dunedin. He had held the ambition of publishing 'a substantial literary journal' in New Zealand for at least 15 years, and in 1947 he founded Landfall, remaining its editor for the next 20 years.
In later life he was a substantial patron of arts and letters, and was involved in the establishment of the Robert Burns Fellowship at the University of Otago. He was also a patron and contributor to the Otago Museum; in this he followed in the footsteps of his grandfather, Willi Fels. His significant library, which reflected his interest in literature, art, history and religion, was donated to the University of Otago Library in 1973. The wide and eclectic nature of his reading allowed him to achieve his own substantial output. His archives are housed at the Hocken Collections, where over 400 artworks gifted by him can also be seen.
He died of cancer in 1973.
- The Land and the People, and Other Poems, (1939) 
- Disputed Ground (1948)
- The Estate (1957)
- Ambulando (1964)
- Home Ground (1974)
- Charles Brash in Egypt (2007)
- Selected Poems (2015)
- 1946: The Quest: Words for a Mime Play, London: The Compass Players
- 1966: Present Company: Reflections on the Arts, Auckland: Blackwood and Janet Paul for the Auckland Gallery Associates
- 1973: Such Separate Creatures: Stories, Christchurch: Caxton Press
- 1973: Hallensteins: the First Century, 1873-1973, Dunedin : Hallenstein Bros., 1973. (with C.R. Nicholson)
- 1981: The Universal Dance: a Selection from the Critical Prose Writings of Charles Brasch, Dunedin: University of Otago Press
- Journals 1939-45 (2013)
- Full bibliography
- Landfall website
-  Benson, Nigel (14 March 2009) "Charles Brasch: A man alone" (Otago Daily Times.)
- Dance of the Peacocks: New Zealanders in exile in the time of Hitler and Mao Tse Tung (Vintage 2003) James McNeish
- "Charles Brasch Collection". University of Otago Library. University of Otago. Retrieved 21 May 2015.
- "I sat down in the evening to read...". University of Otago Library. University of Otago. Retrieved 21 May 2015.
- "Brasch, Charles : Literary and personal papers (1889 - 1973)". Hocken Heritage Collections. University of Otago. Retrieved 2 June 2015.
- "Charles Brasch: In the Company of Artists 1 August – 10 October 2009". Hocken Collections. University of Otago. Retrieved 2 June 2015.
- "Selection of artworks gifted to the Hocken Library by Charles Brasch". Otago University Research Heritage. University of Otago. Retrieved 2 June 2015.
- Web page titled "Charles Brasch: New Zealand Literature File" at the University of Auckland Library website, accessed April 26, 1980: Indirections: a Memoir, 1909-1947, Wellington ; New York: Oxford University Press