The analysis of "The Planners" by Boey Kim Cheng. 

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amarang9 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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In "The Planners," the speaker memorializes the past while describing the unstoppable force of progress and industrialization. There is a subtle indication that this poem is pastoral, longing for natural spaces not corrupted by cement. But more generally, the poem is about how the past is continually being erased. The poem deals mainly with geography and landscape, but it could be read in terms of the fast-paced race to the future: a computer or a smart phone is obsolete within a year - not only is the past erased and soon forgotten, it (the past) doesn't even last as long as it used to. 

The poem begins referring to "they" - planners - (the institutions and individuals who drive and sustain the force of industrialization and progress. "They" build the world in perfect grids, designed by mathematics. There is the sense that a human element is lost because the designs are so rigid and square. The line "Even the sea draws back / And the skies surrender" indicates that nature (and perhaps human nature) is being pushed out of the way. 

The poem has no particular rhyme scheme or meter. It is a series of lines/thoughts, some of which run on to following lines (enjambment) and some contain specific observations. So, "The buildings are in alignment with the roads / which meet at desired points" reads like a blueprint: this goes here, that goes there. But where a line runs on to the next, it doesn't have that blueprint style. It feels more like a wandering thought broken (the line break) by a nostalgic emotion: 

The drilling goes right through 

the fossils of last century. 

The speaker suggests that we have been brainwashed to let this occur. "Anesthesia, amnesia, hypnosis" - We are drugged, we forget the past, and then we are hypnotized to welcome the new world which has no blemishes or flaws. It is a world of "perfect rows." This is a world where everything is mathematically designed by "The Planners." It is sanitized and is as lifeless as a blueprint. In the final stanza, the speaker might be suggesting that in such a robotic, cement-driven, technological world, the human element is lost and therefore, the impact of human emotion and the power of art (the blood of poetry) would have no effect. 

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