He was born in Greenock, Scotland of Irish parents, and his family returned to live in Dublin in 1918. He studied at University College, Dublin, where he met and befriended Brian Coffey. Together they published a joint collection, Poems, in 1930.
He joined the Irish diplomatic service in 1935 and spent a number of years in New York and Washington. During this time he met the French poet St. John Perse, and the Americans Allen Tate and Robert Penn Warren. He went on to publish a translation of Exile and Other Poems by St-John Perse, and Tate and Warren edited his posthumous Selected Poems
Since his death, there have been two Collected Poems published; the first in 1964 was edited by Coffey and the second in 1989 by J.C.C. Mays.