Boey Kim Cheng is a Singapore-born Australian poet Thoroughly disillusioned with Singapore’s exponential progress and hurried economic evolution, he believed that these were attained at the cost of spiritual stagnation and cultural retardation. His poem “The Planners” is very 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 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.
The flaws are effortlessly erased. Past mistakes are knocked of without any value, 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 ‘like gleaming gold.” The country appears to adorn perfect rows of shining teeth, flaunting a flamboyant smile.
They have the means.
They have it all so it will not hurt,
The feeling that they have all the means, financial stability and economic security, makes them feel complacent. They possess all the means to make the citizen do the accepted thing in accordance with their “Dentistry”. Anesthesia is to be numb to the rash developments. Amnesia to cut off sentimental attachment with previous entities. And hypnosis to conform to new policies and developments. The Planners have the resources so that history is set to turn over a new leaf. The remnants of the past are suitably piled up one over the other. In the research to a new civilization, nothing is spared. History is drilled right to its roots. It marks the triumph of scientific advancement over cultural growth.
The poet asserts that his heart would not dare to bleed a single drop of poetry. He doesnot want emotions to enter this confine 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.
It is as opposed to ‘my heart bleeds’ in “Ode to the West Wind” with 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.
©Rukhaya MK 2010
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