Both “In the new landscape” by Bruce Dawe and “Your Attention Please” by Peter Porter are fine examples of Speculative Fiction worthy of being in a Year Nine anthology for 2012. The poems are in-depth hypotheses of what society will eventuate too, allowing the reader to ponder the way of living in the future: a true example of speculating. The poetic structures display careful imagery and strong senses of warning, illustrating a world full of dystopia and dread.
In “In the new landscape”, the concept of a world dominated by machinery is explored. Dawe forces the reader to accept that in the “future”, the need for humans might not be crucial to the operation of society. The poet presents ideas of “roads/ the full width between buildings” and “pedestrians pale” whilst “motorists on the other hand will be tanned”. In the poem, the cities of the world are overrun with hoods of cars; there is nothing more important than their destination, with everything else coming second. A sense of dictatorship and controlled behaviour is apparent, with any expression of individuality deafened by the “ceremonial honking of horns”. Dawe warns the reader of how if we allow technology, mainly cars, to take over our lives we will lose sight of what is important, what we should be valuing and our sense of selves, to the point where “even the irreplaceable parts/ will be replaceable”.
In the fourth stanza the poem takes on a metaphorical stance when Dawe starts to describe the city as “a concrete god with streamlined attributes”. It continues to explore the actions performed by society in its manner of worshipping, such as the “daily anthem of praise” and the “ceremonial honking of motor-horns”. This demonstrates the controlling manner of the industrialised city and its ability to inflict order as well as despair and hopelessness on civilians. The feeling of being overpowered is also present through phrases such as (the concrete god is) “not likely to go soft at the sight or sound of/ little children under the front wheels/ or lovers who have wilfully forgotten/to keep their eyes on the road”. It shows how a monster has been created and the people are now at its mercy.
A sense of regulation is felt through the choice of words and the approach they are presented in. Dawe’s writing has an air of specificity, using such phrases as “there will be” and “we will” leaving no room for misinterpretation and making it clear to readers that this is the “future”. It is clearly outlined that through the evolution of cars, many small but significant things have been sacrificed including the “sounds of acceleration instead of birdsong”, “no trees/ unless as exotica” and any form of neighbourhood qualities for example “no more streets begging hopscotch squares”. Dawe is showing how in his predicted future, any sense of natural beauty is trumped by society’s overwhelming need for commercial and overly eccentric goods.
On the other hand “Your Attention Please” is recalling a protocol message in the event of a nuclear attack. Porter is predicting that through the development of technology, weaponry and war, human society has created an environment where the main priority is the individual’s survival: “Leave the old and bed-/ridden, you can do nothing for them”. The poem refers frequently to religion, making it clear to the broadcast’s audience that whatever has happened or will happen, is in no way the governments fault, and is up to God as “Whatever happens happens by His Will”. Individuals are simply a statistic in the eyes of the government, and emotional or sentimental value is disregarded as animals will just “consume/ fresh air”.
In “your Attention Please” Porter has used a variety of different techniques in portraying his message. The use of disjointed sentences and direct, simple instructions allows the reader to envisage a situation of emergency. Although the city has an impending “nuclear rocket strike of/At least one thousand megatons” the reader does not get the impression of a rush, or panic but quite the opposite—that of order and controlled defeat, as though the community has known a war was looming. The poem expresses it’s theme of a dystopia successfully, providing imagery through its poetic structure and themes.
The government has made its attempts at keeping its people safe with the “Requirements published in the Civil/Defence Code” and through the outlining of the safety precautions, the reader is exposed to a mood of despair and anxiety. In a situation where death is imminent, the provided “capsules marked ‘Valley Forge’/(Red Pocket in No. 1 Survival Kit)/ For painless death” further proves how the government is aware that “Some of us may die” but the fact that “Death is the least we have to fear” causes questions as to what has caused a situation where living is worse than death.
In conclusion, both poems are presenting ideas of a distance future in unique forms whilst questioning the decency of the life humans have created. The use of different poetic techniques, themes and subject matters allows the messages presented to be expressed to an audience and should therefore be included in a Year Nine anthology for 2012.