The Poetry of Dorothy Parker

You Might as Well Live...

I first discovered Dorothy Parker’s poetry in my senior year of college, while browsing through a bookstore. I quickly took to her writing.

A few days later, I went to visit my grandmother, who had always nurtured my love of reading and writing, and loved poetry herself. She of course asked what I was reading, and when I pulled the book out of my bag, she grabbed it from me, asked if she could have it, and paid me for it so I could go and buy myself a new copy. She would not wait for me to go and get another copy for her. She was so excited to have Dorothy Parker to read again. She had been her favorite poet when she was a young woman, but she had not come across her work again since. My grandmother was 79 at the time. I was 21.

Dorothy Parker has a way of speaking to women, no matter what their age. She is probably best known for taking shots at men through her writing and I suppose she did do that, but there is so much more to her work. Her poetry captures something of reality that we cannot ordinarily nail down with words. She can, with an sharp, smart edge. She can speak to the heart of a 21-year-old single college student and a 79-year-old widow all in the same few lines.

Dorothy Parker was known for throwing "her pen" at men.
Dorothy Parker was known for throwing "her pen" at men.
Cloudy and a little dreary could describe some of Ms. Parker's work.
Cloudy and a little dreary could describe some of Ms. Parker's work.

Inventory

Four be the thing I am wiser to know:

Idleness, sorrow, a friend and a foe.

Four be the things I’d been better without:

Love, curiosity, freckles and doubt.

Three be the things I shall never attain:

Envy, Content, and sufficient champagne.

Three be the things I shall have till I die:

Laughter and hope and a sock in the eye.

Dorothy Parker was born in 1893 and raised in New York City, where she was educated in a strict Catholic school, until being fired from there and sent to an exclusive private school in New Jersey. She was hired by Vogue at age 22 to write captions for fashion illustrations. She was soon offered a position as a drama critic for Vanity Fair . She became on of the handful of writers who helped shape The New Yorker ‘s character. Her first collections of poems appeared there, including Enough Rope and Death and Taxes . She was married, for a time, then divorced and lived alone. She was known for living an exciting life, traveling with Hemingway through Europe and generally knowing how to have a good time. She died in of a heart attack in 1967.

From Enough Rope :

Resume

Razors pain you;

Rivers are damp;

Acids stain you;

And drugs cause cramp;

Guns aren't lawful;

And nooses give;

Gas smalls awful;

You might as well live.

Dorothy Parker's Inscriptions for the Ceiling of a Bedroom

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Comments 16 comments

Lidian profile image

Lidian 8 years ago

I love her poetry too - and her book reviews and short stories are pretty good, too!


amy jane profile image

amy jane 8 years ago from Connecticut Author

Yes, I agree Lidian! All of her work is worth reading. :)


sa5ra profile image

sa5ra 7 years ago from Utah

That cartoon is awesome! I'm a huge Dorothy Parker fan but I never knew that she threw pens at men.


amy jane profile image

amy jane 7 years ago from Connecticut Author

Thanks sa5ra! I love that cartoon too. She was quite talented with a pen!


Uninvited Writer profile image

Uninvited Writer 7 years ago from Kitchener, Ontario

Excellent hub. I'm a big fan of Dorothy Parker too.


Teresa McGurk profile image

Teresa McGurk 7 years ago from The Other Bangor

I keep a volume of her collected works in my reading room. Well, since I live in a camper it's actually the bathroom, but I suspect Ms. Parker would have thought that funny.


LondonGirl profile image

LondonGirl 7 years ago from London

I love her stuff, she can sum up a lot so fast, "It serves me right for putting all my eggs in one bastard."

She could be pretty bitter as well:

Every love's the love before

In a duller dress.

That's the measure of my lore--

Here's my bitterness:

Would I knew a little more,

Or very much less!


amy jane profile image

amy jane 7 years ago from Connecticut Author

It's great to find other Dorothy Parker fans right here on HubPages! I should suspected it... Somehow her bitterness is comforting.


rkmertz 7 years ago

She seems to have lead an amazing life! I am going to have to read some of her poetry. She is inspiring for women and in general!


amy jane profile image

amy jane 7 years ago from Connecticut Author

Her life is very interesting. Definitely read her work! You will surely enjoy it!


donna bamford profile image

donna bamford 6 years ago from Canada

Thanks Amy jane for a great hub. Enjoyed that and i shall look her up!


amy jane profile image

amy jane 6 years ago from Connecticut Author

Thanks Donna! I hope you enjoy her work. It is worth looking up!


Alison 5 years ago

When I was in my late teens, I stumbled on something of hers. I said the words "Dorothy Parker" to my mother. She paused, stood back, looked me up and down and said "Yes, you're ready for Dorothy Parker" and gave me her copy (from the 40s) of her collected works. I'm 51 now, that would have been over 30 years ago and I still treasure it.


Peter 5 years ago

Miss Parker

Dorothy, oh Dorothy

Where have you gone my dear?

I wish that I had lived my life in sweetest yesteryear.

Your lovely smile, beguiling look -

Oh give me here a break -

My interest would be simpler,

And you would not partake.

Dorothy...oh Dorothy

I miss you every day

You have left your poetry, and gone so far away.

I'd smile at your pen -

Waited for your say...

You'd put your servant in his place.

That's where I am today.

JP Fuller 2011-09-02


snakeslane profile image

snakeslane 5 years ago from Canada

amy jane: really enjoyed this piece on Dorothy Parker, there was enough here for two or three "Hubs". Film clips were very entertaining, thanks for putting this together.


Lewis Jian profile image

Lewis Jian 2 years ago from Taoyuan City

Thanks for sharing

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