War poems record the effects of the many wars Australians have fought in during the twentieth century, a period when one war followed another. A number of earlier war poets write about the significance of the ANZAC campaign at Gallipoli during World War 1. Roderic Quinn’s Poems (1920) includes the tributes ‘The Soul of the Anzac’ and ‘The Twenty-Fifth of April’. Writing around the same time, John Le Gay Brereton also acknowledged the achievement of the Anzacs in his poem ‘ANZAC’, even though he was himself as a pacifist as is shown in his poem ‘War’. Later poets who have written about the significance of Anzac Day include John Forbes in ‘Anzac Day’ and Tom Shapcott in ‘Anzac Park’, where he recalls an Anzac Day ceremony he attended as a child. Shapcott has also written about his father’s experiences as a soldier during World War 1 in his poem ‘War’. In contrast, Bruce Beaver’s ‘R.M.R. War 1916’ deals with the experiences of the German poet Rilke during World War 1. Chris Wallace-Crabbe’s ‘Other People’ wonders who want war, as he recounts the death of four of his uncles during World War 1.
Douglas Stewart’s ‘Sonnets to the Unknown Soldier’ were published in 1941 during the height of World War 2. It begins ‘We thought we had buried war with unknown soldier’. Other Australian poets recall the impact of World War 2 during their childhood. For Margaret Scott, in ‘Peace and War’, it was a childhood in England threatened by invasion. Those who grew up in Australia recall the joy after the defeat of Japan, as does Katherine Gallagher in her ‘The Last War’ and Geoff Page in ‘The End of the Pacific War’. An older poet, Geoffrey Dutton thinks back over his own wartime experiences in ‘A Wreath for Anzac’, as he is about to take part in an Anzac Day march. Andrew Sant’s ‘War Veteran’ is a Vietnam war poem.
Two examples of short war poems are Richard Tipping’s ironic ‘War’ and A D Hope’s ‘Inscription for a War’, both of which are strongly anti-war in sentiment.