The Planners by Boey Kim Cheng

They plan. They build. All spaces are gridded,

filled with permutations of  possbilities.

The buildings are in alignment with the roads

which meet at desired points

linked by bridges all hang

in the grace of mathematics.

They build and will not stop.

Even the sea draws back

and the skies surrender.

They erase the flaws,

the blemishes of the past,

knock off useless blocks with dental dexterity.

All gaps are plugged with  gleaming gold.

The country wears perfect rows of shining teeth.

Anaesthesia,amnesia, hypnosis.

They have the means.

They have it all so it will not hurt,

so history is new again. The piling will not stop.

The drilling goes right through the fossils of last century.

But my heart would not bleed

poetry. Not a single drop

to stain the blueprint

of our past’s tomorrow.


15 thoughts on “The Planners by Boey Kim Cheng

    1. Hi Gabby,
      My year group have only just completed the last selection of poems so we will not be looking at these ones until January.

  1. The Planners: 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 near impossible feat. ‘All gaps are plugged with gleaming gold’, wealth and prosperity is used to cover up imperfections of the country, and it is made to be perfect in every way possible, wearing ‘perfect rows of shining teeth’. However, even if everything of the present I perfect, they will not stop, even trying to alter their history. ‘Anaesthesia, amnesia, hypnosis’ – the government will use propaganda and all the means possible to make their country forget their past, or remember a fake (but perfect) version of their past, so that ‘history is new again’. They will alter the last century of history to fit their wants with no respect for their heritage; ‘the drilling goes right through the fossils of last century.’ However the poet/persona doe not seem angered at the action of the Planners, but resigned to what is happening and will not try to stop it. His ‘heart would not bleed…..not a single drop’. Maybe the persona/poet believes this process, although upsetting, is necessary? Or maybe he is resigned simply because he knows that he cannot stop the Planners even if he tried.

  2. The Planner
    – Boey Kim Cheng

    ‘The Planners’ is a poem composed by poet Boey Kim Cheng. In this poem, he has reveled his discomfort towards urbanization of his native land Singapore. In 1997, he self exiled himself from Singapore as he deeply felt that ongoing urbanization and sanity was simply senseless. He supports the idea of being non-uniform and naturally imperfect. He has criticized the précised and perfect planning of the planners throughout the poem. He firmly opposes their idea of controlling and correcting the flaws of the nature. He states that the planners are very selfish and mechanical. The poem is closely linked with ‘The City Planners’ composed by Margaret Atwood. As of the poets share their hatred towards perfection and sanity.

    At the very first line, he opposes planners by using the pronoun ‘they’ which clearly states his disapproval to their planning. He then briefs about their precise and the perfect alignment of roads. Poet mocks them by commenting ‘In grace of mathematics’ which offends the planners as mathematics is defined as precision and not grace. He describes the nature’s helpless state due to urbanization in the first paragraph by saying ‘Even the seas draws back and skies surrender’ stating the nature has drawn back there fight against urbanization .In the second paragraph, He details about their precise and skilled mechanical and un-human drilling of the nature to erase flaws, which posses beauty of imperfection. He then says that planners are obstinate and wont stop superfluous act of urbanization. He concludes by finally down hearting as he states that it is pointless to regret, as the future is going to resemble past.

    The structure of the poem is varied, with a free verse structure to emphasis on beauty of imperfection as he starts with long lines, followed with shorter ones. He has focused on pronouns ‘They’ to show dissimilarity in between their mindsets, For example ‘They plan, They build’ he is conveying that he is unlike them. He has tried to vary the pace of the poem by using short and quick caesuras followed by long and slow Enjambments, again to emphasis on non-uniformity. There is dominance of harsh consonance to second his theme of offending and opposing the planners with words like drilling.

    Poet has highlighted implementation of mocking and sarcasm, to act biased on the topic and giving a humorous tone to the poem. The personification of sky and sea as the victims of the ruthless urbanization clearly revels their helpless condition. He mocks them by using of word like Dexterity to make fun of their skilled and pitch perfect work. The uses of words like gridded directs how unspontaneous the planners are. The alliteration of ‘si’ in ‘Anesthesia, Amnesia, Hypnosis’

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