The City Planners and the Planners


The poems are similar in ideas and tone, although Atwood’s is considerably more skilled and Cheng’s themes are more specific to his particular homeland. TCP” – themes of modernity pushing aside nature; loss of human/nature relationship; identity Structure/Poetic Devices/Analysis (Have students find devices for homework, but for analysis purposes the poetic devices worth noting consist mainly of just imagery, simile and metaphor although it is good to note that the free structure keeps the focus on the images and ideas. Atwood’s ironic/sarcastic/humourous tone is also an effective device for conveying her ideas)

Atwood’s poem is rich with irony (humour) and linguistic inventiveness/ fun with words. It is written in her trademark free verse style, with little structure or formality. Her “us” is not a strong blank narrator because her situations are specific experiences and not general enough for all people to relate to. The poem also reflects her personal views, which are also too specific (“HS” and “TC” are stronger blank narrators because they are based in reaction and common crises, not specific experiences and opinions). – She grabs our attention with her unusual manner of description, her irony and her claim of being offended by normal life (the all-too-normal suburbanites) – “The houses in pedantic rows, the planted/sanitary trees” Atwood sees suburbia as dull and pedantic.

She paints it not as the comfortable, safe existence that ‘normal people’ think it is, but like a boring, colourless situation. What other images clearly show her distain for suburbia? – The lawnmower is sarcastically described as the most interesting thing in suburbia – this signals a shift in the poem for the dramatic and judgmental, no longer just merely observational. Atwood talks of how these City Planners, who are so full of themselves, think they know best; that all of their suburban creations will make the world better. Atwood disagrees, implying that modern suburbia will be the apocalypse/death of humanity.

She identifies flaws in suburbia/modernization that foreshadow this breakdown of humanity – can you find them? – Atwood’s ending is very hyperbolic, inferring that these self-absorbed and self-aggrandizing City Planners are just as empty and meaningless as the ‘burbs they pollute the world with. Consider: Is “TCP” a poem that shines with wit and brilliant phrasing, such as “bland madness”, or is it nothing more than a whiney rant, an exaggerated condemnation of something rather harmless? – Atwood can also be showing us how these modern, manmade ‘plans’ are a form of escapism.

Modern Man is hiding behind his unnatural, overly-organized environments so he does not have to fell he is not always in control (“HS”). – Atwood can also be showing, in her comment about the Planners, that Man thinks what he does in important, but it is not and it will not last – that Planners who seek to control and mould nature are fighting an uphill battle that nature will always win (outlast). Consider: What words would you use to describe the tone of this poem? Prove with text. “TP” — themes of modernity pushing aside nature; loss of human/nature relationship; identity