Wislawa Szymborska, a Nobel Prize winner, makes poetry out of unusual materials: lists of instructions, clothes items, apologies or questions. Her tone can be wry or playful or chilling. Her purpose is to shake us awake to how human history gets assembled from the smallest movements—impulsive or thoughtful, random or rational—of our minds and hearts.
“Plotting with the Dead” asks questions that almost assault us. They seem like the script of a police or courtroom interrogation, with us as the accused. “Under what conditions do you dream of the dead? / Do you often think of them before you fall asleep?” While every poem is a dialogue with the reader, inviting us into its world, rarely does a poem yank us in so aggressively.