Emily Dickinson wrote many poems about death. Two of the most unusual of them are "Because I could not stop for Death" (479) and "I heard a Fly buzz - when I died" (591). Both of these poems relate the death of the speaker in the first person, meaning that the speaker is describing her own death after she has already died. In this each poem violates the adage, "Dead men tell no tales." One of the most mysterious things about death is that no one has lived through it to tell us about it. This accounts for, in our day, public fascination with near death experience accounts like Heaven Is for Real and others.
Both poems personify death, giving it human characteristics. In the former, Death is driving a carriage that brings the speaker to the graveyard. In the latter, death is described as "the King" in line 7. Both poems reveal a resignation toward death; the speaker knew she had to go. In Poem 479, she states, "I had put away / My labor and my leisure too, / For His Civility." Poem 591 mentions the speaker having made her last will and testament. Both poems have a calm, quiet tone. "We slowly drove - He knew no haste" describes the mood in the first poem, and the second refers to "the Stillness in the Room."
Both poems use understatement to great effect. The first describes Immortality, an overwhelming concept, as something that is able to ride as an extra passenger in the carriage. The second focuses on the sound of a fly buzzing--something very mundane and insignificant when compared to the immensity of death.
Both poems use the "fourteener" structure that Dickinson favored: Each stanza consists of fourteen iambic feet arranged in alternating lines of four and three. Of course, both poems also display Dickinson's unique capitalization and punctuation quirks, especially the dash.
Both poems demonstrate Dickinson's unparalleled poetic genius in that they capture a perspective on death that challenges the reader to consider the topic in new and surprising ways.