The poet of the poem “The Planners”, Boey Kim Cheng, uses many techniques, including but not limited to an extended metaphor and personification, to effectively communicate his views on the planners. In the beginning of the poem, the poet states what the planners do. “They plan. They build. All spaces are gridded,” shows that the planners are very organized. The word “permutations” shows that each space is tightly packed to its full potential by the planners. The buildings are in alignment with the roads”, and the reference to mathematics, since mathematics can create a one and only solution to any problem, shows that the planners have only made one possible outcome for everything they build.
One choice. One perfection. But it is their perspective of organization and perfection, and people with different views, such as the personna, many think them as intrusive of their own perspectives and creativity of variety.
Up to this point the poet has successfully used language to persuade us that the builders have planned and built exactly as they want it.
Everything uniform and perfect. However, at the end of the first stanza there is a twist. The poet claims that they will “build and not stop. ”, stating that they will do what they believe is right without stopping from both physical obstacles and the obstacles of people that oppose their ideas. The next lines show that how nature, which is personified to give it more of a lifelike feeling, draws back and recedes from the builders.
Waves do not normally draw back, and skies cannot, obviously, surrender, and so the exaggeration within the personifications shows that the builders have so much impact and effect on the world that even nature is afraid of them. The three lines cast a shadow over the builders and make us wonder whether what the builders do is actually positive or negative. In the second stanza, the poet uses an extended metaphor to describe and to criticize what the planners do. The poet constantly refers to the metaphor of a dentist.
A dentist can be seen as someone who fixes up the broken things; someone of corrects things that are not perfect or correct. The planners are first said to “erase the flaws” and the “blemishes of the past”. The word “flaws” show that the planners are trying to make a perfect world, one without any mistakes or anything within their idea of “imperfection”. The word “blemishes” are usually related to artificial flaws, and mistakes, and so the “blemishes of the past” may just as well be the mistakes that they made in history. The also knock off “useless blocks”.
In the planner’s opinions, the blocks may be useless, but to someone else with a different perspective, the blocks may be still of use and does not need to be destroyed. The poet refers to the dentists by saying that the planners knock of blocks with “dental dexterity”. This shows how negative the poet thinks about the planners, destroying things that might be still of use to someone else, similar to the saying of “one man’s trash is another’s treasure. ” The planners are said to plug the gaps. The word “plugged” usually mean that it is blocked and nto allowed to come in or go out.
From the previous stanza stating perfection of the planners, we can infer that the “gaps” are the creativity of people. The have built and planned the city with such uniformity that the people that live there are under their spell and have no more creativity. The creativity is plugged and blocked, with “gleaming gold”, which, as gold is considered a rare and perfect element, may suggest that they are instead replaced with what the planners regard as “perfection”. This could mean that the people who have different views with the society as a whole may be suppressed and forbidden to show their opinions.
In addition the “plugging” of gaps refer to the actions of dentists. These all add up to show how much the poet believes that the planners are discouraging creative minds, which may well include the minds of artists, musicians, and poets, like himself. The country is depicted as having “perfect rows”. Natural things are said to be perfect because of their imperfections, similar to the main idea of the poem “Pied Beauty”. This line shows that the planners have changed the original country so much that the country has become unnaturally perfect in the planner’s opinion. Anaesthesia” is a pain killer. The deeper meaning of this word is that the planners use anaesthetic to numb the people of their senses so that they do not see the destruction that the planners are doing and instead only see what the planners want them to see-perfection. “Amnesia” means forgetfulness. The deeper meaning may be that the planners have created so much uniformity and plainness that the society that lives there have forgotten how to be creative and so therefore unable to challenge the planner’s actions.
Finally, “hypnosis” is a state of unconscious consciousness. The deeper meaning is that he planners may be manipulating the society with “hypnosis” so that they follow the planner’s ideas and point of views. These three words show how much the poet thinks that the planners are bad and should not be doing what they are doing. The planners are said to have the three things so that it “will not hurt”, which tells us that it is supposed to hurt, which means that the planners are actually doing a negative thing rather than a positive thing.
The line “so history is new again” shows that the planners are covering up the history with the present, and that they do not care for the past and the historical importance. They may be portrayed as “building history”, but the ironic thing is that you have to have a foundation; a history to build upon on. The removal of history may be compared to the removal of the tooth’s root, the very foundation. The poet believes that the planners removing the history will shake the very foundations of the society, similar to how removing a tooth’s root will cause it to fall out. The poet says that the planners “will not stop”.
Similar to the previous usage of the word “will”, it suggests a never-ending continuity. The poet says that the drilling “goes right through the fossils of last century”. The fossils can be depicted as the foundation of our everyday lives. It is our culture; what live to. Our history; where we learn from. And our heritage; where we come from. The planners are said to be destroying these, and the persona is obviously not happy with this and so portrays the planners as negative. In the final stanza, the poet says that his “heart will not bleed poetry”. This is interesting, as normal hearts don’t bleed, much less poetry!
I believe that the poet is trying to say that he cannot have creativity in this area, an area controlled and manipulated by the planners to be so-called perfect and lacking originality and creativeness. He cannot stain the blueprints, the plans of the planners and the plans of manipulation and originality killing. He uses the “past’s tomorrow” as he is trying to tell us about how the planners are destroying the past for a uncreative tomorrow. It is just an more in-depth description of the word “today”. Overall, the poet uses multiple language techniques to display his disgust towards the planners.
An important aspect of this poem is that the stanza differ in length and lack congruity, which may have been intentioned by the author to ridicule the uniformity of the “planners”. But the main question is, who are the planners? Are they actually architects? Society? Or government? Generally, it could be any or all of them. The author was born in Singapore, but could not stand the “planners” and their suppression of creativity. He was a poet, and so this impacted him deeply. Singapore is also said to be one of the most depressing and unhappy cities in the world.
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