When Death Comes
by Mary Oliver
Analysis: What's Up With the Title?
The title of this poem is short and simple. It alerts us to the poem's concerns (i.e., death and thoughts springing from the arrival of death), it's just a few words, and it's the same as the first line of the poem. Having the title be the same as the first line of the poem works to ensure that the reader doesn't get stopped up on the first line. Since we've already encountered the line, we're not going to stop and wonder about it (we will have already done that after reading the title), and so we can move on in the poem, without the momentum being interrupted. In fact, the repetition increases the momentum of the poem and helps reinforce the resonance of the idea of death's arrival. After all, the poem has just started and already the moment of death has been mentioned twice. The line also appears several more times in the opening of the poem, and each time it rings a little louder in our mind because we keep recognizing it as also being the title of the poem.