Nan McDonald

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Nan McDonald
Born Nancy May McDonald
(1921-12-25)25 December 1921
Eastwood, New South Wales
Died 7 January 1974(1974-01-07) (aged 52)
Mount Ousley, New South Wales, Australia
Language English
Nationality Australian
Education BA, University of Sydney
Notable works Pacific Sea
Notable awards Grace Leven Prize for Poetry
Years active 1944-1969

Nancy May (Nan) McDonald (25 December 1921–7 January 1974) was an Australian poet and editor.


Born in Eastwood, New South Wales, McDonald went to Hornsby Girls' High School (1934–38), and studied at the University of Sydney (B.A., 1943).[1] She worked as an editor for Angus and Robertson, where she specialized in Australian literature, with colleagues such as Alec Bolton, Beatrice Davis and Douglas Stewart. In 1953 she edited the annual Anthology of Australian Poetry.[2] She first published in 1947; a review of the collection, Pacific Sea, called her work "essentially Australian" and prasied her "exquisite precision".[3] Her poems have also been called "sombre and deathward-drawn".[4] McDonald died aged 52 of cancer on 7 January 1974.

An obituary in the Australian Author noted R. D. Fitzgerald's description of McDonald as "the tranquil Australian poet".[5] Several sources record that McDonald's work has yet to be assessed from a critical perspective.[6][7]

Awards and distinctions[edit]

McDonald contributed to the school magazine at Hornsby Girls' High School, twice winning the school's Ethel Curlewis (née Turner) prize for verse.

Her first published collection of poetry, Pacific Sea (1947), won the inaugural Grace Leven Prize for Poetry.


  • Pacific Sea (1947)
  • The Lonely Fire, Sydney, Angus and Robertson, 1954
  • The Lighthouse and Other Poems, Sydney, Angus and Robertson, 1959
  • Selected Poems: Nan McDonald, Sydney, Angus and Robertson, 1969
  • Burn to Billabong: Macdonald Clansfolk in Australia 1788-1988, Sydney, Portofino Design Group, 1988
  • For Prisoners: An Unpublished Poem, Canberra, Brindabella Press, 1995


  1. ^ Roe, J. I. (2000). "McDonald, Nancy May (Nan) (1921 - 1974)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Canberra: Australian National University. Retrieved 2008-09-05. 
  2. ^ Australian Poets and their Works, by William Wilde, Oxford University Press, 1996.
  3. ^ "Strength & Sunshine - The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954) - 14 Feb 1948". Trove. Retrieved 2017-03-24. 
  4. ^ Gray, Robert (2013). "McDonald, Nan". The Oxford Companion to Modern Poetry (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780191744525. 
  5. ^ Austlit. "Nan McDonald". Retrieved 2017-03-24. 
  6. ^ Austlit. "Nan McDonald". Retrieved 2017-03-24. 
  7. ^ Roe, J. I. (2000). "McDonald, Nancy May (Nan) (1921 - 1974)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Canberra: Australian National University. Retrieved 2008-09-05.