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.
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.