Boey Kim Cheng – ‘The Planners’
Boey was born in Singapore in 1965, was educated there, but now teaches creative writing at an Australian university; perhaps this poem is critical of the way Singapore has been planned and built, though it could equally apply to any modern city. One critic has said that “the relation of the poet to his country has an abrasive element that can be sampled from ‘The Planners’.” (http://www.ethosbooks.com.sg).
Some points for classroom discussion
Is history being deliberately obliterated? (Lines 21-22) Does the poet like what is happening in the city? What do the last four lines of the poem, clearly central to what Boey is writing, say to you?
Is the poet more angry than sad? Or just resigned to what is happening?
Some brief biographical information on Boey can be found on these websites:
Compare what Margaret Atwood suggests about city planning in ‘The City Planners’ with what Boey Kim Cheng writes here; some parts of this poem, especially perhaps in the first two sections, seem strikingly similar in their ideas and images – which words and phrases suggest this? Atwood foresees a time when natural forces will take over again, and destroy everything that human planning has created; Boey’s poem has a similar theme, though he seems even more critical of the way that men want to conquer and even obliterate any possible ‘flaws’ that nature might contain.