Margaret Eleanor Atwood, is a Canadian author, poet, critic, essayist, feminist and social campaigner .Best known as a novelist, she is also an award-winning poetess.”The City-Planners is an indictment on the superficiality of progress, and the attribution of incorrigible rationality to the same.
The word “cruising” implies to move along, in an unhurried or unconcerned fashion. As the poet moves about in a residential area, she is offended by the “sanities” of the area. The word ‘sanities’ may possess a double meaning here. Firstly, it may allude to the unnatural ‘sanitariness’ of the place. Secondly, it may denote the saneness of minds, or soundness that render them sophisticated, uniform and therefore boring. The “dry August sunlight” alludes to the province from which the speaker hails: Canada. The houses in rows appear too pedantic to be real. The trees have the appearance of being planted to render the scene picture-perfect. The levelness of surface further provokes the poetess as it appears to be a rebuke to the dent in their car door. There is no shouting there ,no shatter of glass. No instinctive action takes place here: everything is after-thought and preplanned. There are no shouts here, no loud wants as people are economically well-off and complacent. The only noise is the rational whine of a power mower. It is that rationality that makes this noise ‘a voice’. In the era of applied technology, this sound is more pleasing to the ears than emotional echoes. The power mower cut a straight swath in the discouraged grass; and thus established the victory of Science over Nature.
The driveways neatly side-step hysteria by revealing even roads. that appear like mathematical units.Hysteria is conveniently side-stepped as nothing can defy logic. The roofs also display the same slant to the hot sky. The act of displaying a slant also means the projection of an angle. This angle of avoidance is everywhere whether it to the hot sun, the smell of spilled oil, or a faint sick smell lingering in the garage. Even a splash of paint on a brick is as amazing as a bruise. A domestic entity like a coiled pipe appears as poisonous as a snake, as it is out of place. The windows portrays a fixed-stare as though everything is static, and nothing is kinetic.
The natural scenery appears to be at the back of this residential area. The speaker hopes that the future cracks in the plaster will enable one to view the breathtaking natural view behind. Man’s mistakes seem to offer more than his creations in this stanza. The poetess seems to plead and demand at the same time when she opines “give momentary access.”
Margaret Atwood claims that there will come an inevitable stage when nature will ultimately conquer Houses will capsize into clay seas. Is the poetess foreboding a natural disaster, most probably a Tsunami? It would the only take a minute to put to years of city-planning to naught They will appear like glaciers then.The speaker utilizes the metaphor of ice to connote transience. Nobody notices how fleeting all this is.
These City Planners-calculating and manipulative in their approach to reach their ends are no less than political conspirators. In such a situation,they will be subjected to unsurveyed territories they had not even envisaged.They will be hidden from each other, where competitiveness will take a back-seat. In such state of affairs, :
guessing directions, they sketch
transitory lines rigid as wooden borders
on a wall in the white vanishing air
tracing the panic of suburb
order in a bland madness of snows
The word “glacier’, ‘snow’ once again brings forward the image of ice symbolic of transience, particularly of material glory. To the speaker, this madness of snow is ‘bland’ and ‘non-irritating ‘ as opposed to the ‘offending’ uniformity she visualized at the outset. The term ‘bland madness’thus functions as an oxymoron.