Happy Birthday, Dorothy Parker

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Dorothy Parker was born on August 22, 1893 in New Jersey, my home state. (Maybe that’s why she’s my favorite modern, dead poet!) Actually, I rediscovered Mrs. Parker, (as she called herself, keeping her first husband’s name) while going through my own divorce, because so many of her witty, caustic poems about men reflected my feelings at the time. On my own birthday in 1995, I dressed up ala Parker and read her poems and a short story at a bookstore in State College. (Several women also came dressed in 1940s clothes and hats. It was great!) I was single, dating, and hesitant to become involved again, so Dorothy’s poems really spoke to me.

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(Here I am, today, dressed in my Dorothy Parker “costume,” which I wore when I read her poems in 1995. I keep the dress & hat for sentimental reasons.) Thanx to hubby Alan for taking these photos on short notice.

I have four of her books: Complete Stories by Penguin Books (Publication date 1995); What Fresh Hell is This? a biography by Marion Meade, again published by Penguin in 1988; The Portable Dorothy Parker by Brendan Gill, also by Penguin (1944); and The Poetry & Short Stories of Dorothy Parker published in 1944 by The Modern Library. (This last book is what I used to find samples of Parker’s poetry. See below.)

In reading her biography, I learned that she was not a particularly happy person. In fact, she made several attempts at suicide and in the 1994 movie about her, Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle, she recited “Résumé,” printed below my review. The movie title refers to the round table at the Algonquin Hotel in New York City, where she and other literati, such as Robert Benchley and Robert Sherwood, “hung out.” (Last year I finally went to the Algonquin for lunch and learned that I could sleep in her suite for $600! per night.)

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One of the ads used to promote the movie.

The Poetry & Short Stories of Dorothy Parker is divided into two parts. First are the more than 175 poems subdivided into: “Enough Rope,” “Sunset Gun,” and “Death and Taxes and Other Poems.” The second half consists of twenty-four of her short stories, of which she was a master at writing, having helped to introduce this genre in the early days of The New Yorker magazine.

If you read her biography, you will better understand her prickly poetry. Some poems are only two to four lines, while others are several pages. My copy has so many clips for the favorite poems I read the night of my birthday that my daughter said I should just clip the ones I don’t want to read. I find Dorothy Parker just as fascinating today as I did when I first read her, earlier in my first marriage. While single, her poetry was just what I needed. Even now, remarried and happily so, I still love Dorothy Parker. This is my tribute to her. ♥ Happy Birthday, Dorothy! ♥

Résumé

Razors pain you;
Rivers are damp;
Acid stains you;
And drugs cause cramp;
Guns aren’t lawful;
Nooses give;
Gas smells awful;
You might as well live.

Experience

Some men break your heart in two,
Some men fawn and flatter;
Some men never look at you;
And that cleans up the matter.

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P.S. During my rediscovery of Dorothy Parker, I fooled around with some poems that I wrote in what I hoped was Parker’s style. Here is one, below the picture of me with one of the books I own. (This is different from the poem I posted on www.divorce-dayz.info.)

FLATTERY for Dorothy

3/26/95

Dorothy had a luminescence,
a negative kind of effervescence,
Bringing unhappiness to a higher plane,
content to bask in tears & pain.

Exquisite torture seemed her goal.
Words of passion seared her soul.
All the barbs & quips & such
Covered what she felt so much.

I thank her for this legacy;
she carved a path of clarity.
Now when I’m feeling sentimental,
I pen a rhyme that’s tough and gentle.

Don’t know if she’d approve or not;
no matter, Dorothy, thanks a lot!


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