The Dim-Post

July 23, 2011

Poetry of the day

Filed under: personal,poetry — danylmc @ 8:54 am

(Apparently) yesterday was National Poetry day, so belatedly:

THRENODY

In Plimmerton, in Plimmerton,
The little penguins play,
And one dead albatross was found
At Karehana Bay.

In Plimmerton, in Plimmerton,
The seabirds haunt the cave,
And often in the summertime
The penguins ride the wave.

In Plimmerton, in Plimmerton,
The penguins live, they say,
But one dead albatross they found
At Karehana Bay.

Dennis Glover, 1964

I heard this poem when I was very young and it stuck with me, partly because we lived in Karehana Bay; mostly because I mistakenly thought an albatross was a kind of dinosaur and whenever we went to the beach I lived in expectation of seeing my own dead albatross, with intact skeleton, terrible claws and massive fangs.

Reading it again as an adult I’m more intrigued by the seabird haunted cave. This did not exist when I lived in Plimmerton in the 80s and 90s. (Although there were old gun-emplacements on the stretch of beach between Plimmerton and Paramata.) Was it a bit of poetic license on Glover’s part, or did it get filled in sometime during the development of the suburb?

I do remember penguins frequenting the beach when I was very young. Every now and then one would get hit by a car along the esplanade, or killed by a dog, and I remember one schoolmate of mine who lived close to the beach had them nesting underneath her house. After a while these reports stopped. I remember going out for a walk one night when I was a teenager: I came across some friends sitting on the beach, shivering with cold. They’d taken LSD and come down to the sea to ‘play with the penguins’, possibly (my memory is hazy) inspired by this Glover poem. I stayed with them for a while but no penguins appeared.

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9 Comments »

  1. I know this poem by heart, because it was part of a programme – I don’t know who organised it, or why – that had New Zealand poetry on ads in Wellington buses, for quite a few years of my childhood. I don’t know if it’s still going, or how long it went for. But it was really neat, and exposed me – as someone who doesn’t really read poetry recreationally – to quite a lot of NZ poetry. Something worth keeping doing, I think.

    Comment by Lucy Stewart — July 23, 2011 @ 9:29 am

  2. While perhaps most who’d care already know, I’d encourage those interested in NZ poetry to sample the online Best New Zealand Poems series. There’s something for everyone (i.e. I like half and dislike half), but it’s a more efficient fix than combing through issues of Landfall and Sport. My favourite from the 2010 edition is David Eggleton’s “Drowned Volcano” — “the sea chucks up a tsunami of canned Pacificana”.

    Comment by bradluen — July 23, 2011 @ 10:14 am

  3. “I do remember penguins frequenting the beach when I was very young. ery now and then one would get hit by a car along the esplanade, or killed by a dog, and I remember one schoolmate of mine who lived close to the beach had them nesting underneath her house. After a while these reports stopped.”…. Story of the NZ ecosystem.

    Comment by Amy — July 23, 2011 @ 11:01 am

  4. they moved to Oamaru.

    I never heard of Blue Penguins in Oamaru until about 1990, but now there are quite a lot of them and they nest under shops on the old main street.

    Comment by Kahikatea — July 23, 2011 @ 11:08 am

  5. Blue Penguins in Oamaru

    I was down there at Christmas and spent one evening with the in-laws, just outside the ‘official’ nesting area. We parked off the side of the road, sitting atop the car and keeping as far out of the way of the penguins as was realistic.

    We watched them come up out of the ocean, collect in little groups, and try to cross the road. Handfuls of tourists, aided and abetted by “knowledgeable” locals, did their utmost to take photo’s and generally get in the way of the penguins as much as possible, in the most ignorant manner.

    It was at that moment that I truly realised it: I hate people.

    Comment by Phil — July 23, 2011 @ 2:23 pm

  6. The cave has me baffled as well. I am familiar with this part of NZ since I was 7. I am now nudging 69.

    I have walked this coast, I have sailed this coast, I have fished this coast, I have dived this coast.

    There well may be a cave, or several, it is a pretty rugged coastline.

    I doubt Glover was ever sober enough to find one.

    Denis was rather fond of Gin, often quite early in the day.

    I suspect “poetic license”.

    Neat poem tho.

    Comment by peterlepaysan — July 23, 2011 @ 10:17 pm

  7. The title has always intrigued me – the only other Threnody I know is a Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima, by a Polish composer Penderecki. It was a set piece for School cert music way back when, and it is intense and rather harrowing..
    I like Glover’s Threnody very much. great choice for National Poetry Day.

    Comment by Carol — July 24, 2011 @ 6:57 pm

  8. I hate people

    Yeah, me too. I love birds.

    Comment by Purple-Shirted Eye Stabber — July 25, 2011 @ 9:44 am

  9. Little penguin crossing street,
    motor car, sausage meat.
    Anon.

    Comment by Clunking Fist — July 27, 2011 @ 7:22 pm


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