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The Poetry of Dorothy Parker

Updated on October 4, 2011

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.


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 :


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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    • Lewis Jian profile image

      Lewis Jian 3 years ago from Taoyuan City

      Thanks for sharing

    • snakeslane profile image

      Verlie Burroughs 6 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.

    • profile image

      Peter 6 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

    • profile image

      Alison 6 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.

    • amy jane profile image

      amy jane 8 years ago from Connecticut

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

    • donna bamford profile image

      donna bamford 8 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 8 years ago from Connecticut

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

    • profile image

      rkmertz 8 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 9 years ago from Connecticut

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

    • LondonGirl profile image

      LondonGirl 9 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!

    • Teresa McGurk profile image

      Sheila 9 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.

    • Uninvited Writer profile image

      Susan Keeping 9 years ago from Kitchener, Ontario

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

    • amy jane profile image

      amy jane 9 years ago from Connecticut

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

    • sa5ra profile image

      sa5ra 9 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 9 years ago from Connecticut

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

    • Lidian profile image

      Lidian 9 years ago

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