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Poetry Analysis: Boey Kim Cheng's "The Planners"

Updated on December 28, 2012


The poem "The Planners" is similar in design and theme to Margaret Atwood's "The City-Planners".The planners of this so-called pseudo-modern civilization build their plan with such dexterity, that the minutest of demands are met. Their level of analysis scans all permutations of possibilities. The buildings are lined up religiously alongside the roads. These roads are arranged to meet at convenient points,defying all logic. The different spaces are 'gridded' and linked mathematically in confinements, whereas creativity is infinite. The construction progresses and nothing interferes with it Even nature is not spared in the process, and therefore the sea draws back in fear and the skies surrender in abandon.

Artificial Perfection

The flaws are effortlessly erased. Past mistakes are knocked off callously, though one learns the most from one's mistakes. The whole process is likened to a dental procedure. The blocks are removed with dental dexterity. All the gaps are neatly filled in with cement akin to 'gleaming gold." The country comes across as perfect rows of shining teeth, flaunting a flamboyant smile.

The feeling that they have all the means, financial stability and economic security, makes them feel complacent. "They have the means./They have it all so it will not hurt." They possess all the means to make citizens comply with acceptable practices in accordance with their "Dentistry". 'Anesthesia',in such a stance, is to be numb to the rash developments. 'Amnesia' becomes a state of detachment to sentimentality and previous entities. And hypnosis is done to conform to new policies and developments. The Planners possesses the resources, so that History is all set to turn over a new leaf. The remnants of the past are suitably piled up one over the other. In the research to build a new civilization, nothing is spared. History is drilled right to its roots. The process marks the triumph of scientific advancement over cultural growth.

No Real Present

The poet asserts that his heart would not dare to bleed a single drop of poetry. He does not want emotions to intrude into this domain of scientific achievements. The poet does not want Art to tamper with Technology-driven progress. And, ironically, the poem is a satire on the same. The poet exclaims : "But my heart would not bleed/poetry. Not a single drop /to stain the blueprint/of our past's tomorrow."

As opposed to 'my heart bleeds' in "Ode to the West Wind" marked by Shelley's typical revolutionary zeal; here the heart does not want to bleed. He does not want a single drop of human blood to drop on the artificial blueprint of "our past's tomorrow." Note that there is mention of just the 'past' and 'tomorrow'. There is no mention of the 'present', as the present is never real for the poet.

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