In the poem the ‘City Planners’ and ‘Where I come from’ by Margaret Atwood and Elizabeth Brewster respectively, the poets use metaphors, imagery and use of negative as well as positive diction to describe the influence of the People over nature and animal kingdom. Atwood uses furious and resented tone and diction to describe the people, ‘city planners’ as selfish people who only care about personal gain. Whereas in ‘Where I come from’, the poet thinks that people are made of places and they behave according to the place they live in and treat nature and their surroundings accordingly. Both poems have themes of ‘organized life of people and nature’, which emphasizes the power of the people forcing it.
In the City planners the poet presents the character of the planners as “political conspirators” that emphasizes their strength. This conveys a sense that everything in the city is controlled by them, even nature. Due to their actions the life in Singapore is like a list and this point is proven by the use of colons after the word ‘sanitary’ in the first stanza. This foreshadows the theme of organized life of people and nature.
Sanitary trees, assert
Levelness of surface like a rebuke
This line gives an effect to the reader that everything is perfect in the city. There is a use of oxymoron to describe the trees, as trees cannot be sanitary. The use of oxymoron suggests that everything that is generally imperfect is the opposite in this city; every thing is perfect; even nature makes sense. This creates a very boring mood in the city as there is nothing very phenomenal and therefore the city isn’t very exciting. It also suggests that nature under control and it isn’t allowed to be insane. Simile is used in this line to compare the asserter of the trees to level the surface, to a rebuke. Here too, the imperfect surface is made level, forcefully by the ‘sane trees’ that were, ironically, forced to be perfect as well. Atwood considers this as a criticism to the surface.
Than the rational whine of the power mower
cutting a straight swath in the discouraged grass.
This line too, suggests the similar idea of nature being controlled. The word ‘cutting’ gives an effect that nature is being made perfect and sane. The use of the diction ‘discouraged’ suggests as if nature does not want to become perfect and sane but it does not have the power to overcome the ‘city planners’. An example of the similar idea is seen when the poet uses the word “power” in front of the mower. The word power foreshadows the idea of ‘everything in the city having power, except for nature’.
The same slant of avoidance to the hot sky.
The people also ignore disorganized nature that the city planners cannot change. This can be seen clearly when, “the same slant of avoidance to the hot sky” is mentioned. In this line the houses avoiding the sun are a metaphor for the people. The poet uses a deeper layer to the meaning by using the houses as a metaphor. The metaphor suggests that the people in Singapore are ‘planned’ to avoid imperfectness. They are planned to avoid insane and irregular nature just like the life of animals and people are planned and organized.
When the houses, capsized, will slide
obliquely into the clay seas, gradual as glaciers
that right now nobody notices.
In this stanza, the poet uses enjambment in order to speed up the poem. The lines in this stanza suggest that, even after the city’s perfection it will end in ruins. The use the words, ‘into the clay seas’ give an ironic suggestion that the imperfection shall remain, but not the perfect cities.
In the poem ‘Where I come from’, the poet symbolizes her past and uses metaphors to convey her feelings towards nature and the animals.
She is of the opinion that people are ‘made’ of places such as forests, mountains etc. This, like the colons in the first poem, is used to foreshadow her opinion towards the people living in different areas and nature.
Nature tidily plotted in little squares
with a fountain in the center; museum smell,
art also tidily plotted with a guidebook;
In these lines a similar idea of nature being controlled by people is seen. The use and repetition of the diction ‘tidily plotted’ is used to create an atmosphere of perfection in the city and it is emphasized by the repetition. The word ‘plotted’ suggests that people do not allow nature to grow randomly. They force it to grow in a specific way. The word “guidebook” is a metaphor for the lives of the people. It conveys a sense of being very organized and precise. It sounds as if the people know what is going to happen in their future as they have a fixed timetable. It also suggests that nature has to follow this timetable too. This idea is also seen in ‘the City Planners’ when the poet uses diction such as ‘same avoidance of the hot sun’.
She idealizes her childhood memories of the past. She states that in the countryside the people are very different from those in the city. Here, nature is not considered to be subservient that can be clearly seen when the poet conveys how nature is not controlled,
“blueberry batches in burnt out bush”,
“with yards where hens and chickens circle about, clucking aimlessly; battered schoolhouses behind which violets grow.”
The word “burnt” is effective because is conveys a sense of not being controlled. This suggests that people in the countryside do not replace nature; they simply give them time for growing once again. The line, “Battered school houses behind which violets grow” also emphasizes the freedom of nature in the countryside. The use of imagery, “violets”, growing behind the “battered” schoolhouses suggests that nature can grow anywhere beautifully and its real beauty is shown when it is allowed to grow randomly.
The poets of both the poems think that nature is being controlled by modern society. Atwood blames the city planners as the reason behind this whereas Brewster believes that common people in the city are also blamed for controlling nature and thinks that people behave differently according to the place they live in.