By Boey Kim Cheng
The poem ‘The Planners’ by Boey Kim Cheng, is remarkably very similar to the previous poem, ‘The City Planners’ in terms of the general theme and idea of the poem; perfection, uniformity, control over nature, and “Planners” who control and create everything. However it should be noted that there is a slight difference in theme of the two poems, the ‘Planners’ in this poem refer not to the actual city planners, but planners of a ‘higher power’, the planners of the whole country, the government. The first stanza of the poem acts as a description for what the ‘Planners’ do physically; “They plan. They build…” There appear to be an obsession with perfection and uniformity, for “The buildings are in alignment with the roads which meet at desired points.” However there is no real passion or emotion for which they build, this is emphasized by the disconnected minor statement like sentences at the beginning, and the constant references to mathematics with words such as ‘gridded’, ‘permutations’, ‘points’. There is even praise and approval for mathematics mentioned here ‘the grace of mathematics’, in line six. (The lack of emotion is linked with mathematic due to the conception that numbers are cold and indifferent, in contrast with words). The last two lines of the stanza remark on the effect the working of the Planners have on the environment; that the Planners are even trying to eliminate the flaws created by nature. The use of personification for the sea and skies emphasizes the sense of defeat. The second stanza uses and extended metaphor for the country described in the poem (possibly Singapore) with teeth, words such as ‘dental dexterity’, ‘shining teeth’, ‘anaesthesia’, ‘piling’ and ‘drilling’ are used. Here, the Planners obsession with perfection is emphasized, flaws are erased, useless parts (useless teeth) are knocked off, even the ‘blemishes of the past’. The Planners here are even trying to perfect their imperfect past, a...
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