poem index

About this poet

On August 22, 1893, Dorothy Parker was born to J. Henry and Elizabeth Rothschild, at their summer home in West End, New Jersey. Growing up on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, her childhood was an unhappy one. Both her mother and step-mother died when she was young; her uncle, Martin Rothschild, went down on the Titanic in 1912; and her father died the following year. Young Dorothy attended a Catholic grammar school, then a finishing school in Morristown, NJ. Her formal education abruptly ended when she was 14.

In 1914, Dorothy sold her first poem to Vanity Fair. At age 22, she took an editorial job at Vogue. She continued to write poems for newspapers and magazines, and in 1917 she joined Vanity Fair, taking over for P.G. Wodehouse as drama critic. That same year she married a stockbroker, Edwin P. Parker. But the marriage was tempestuous, and the couple divorced in 1928.

In 1919, Parker became a founding member of the Algonquin Round Table, an informal gathering of writers who lunched at the Algonquin Hotel. The "Vicious Circle" included Robert Benchley, Harpo Marx, George S Kaufman, and Edna Ferber, and was known for its scathing wit and intellectual commentary. In 1922, Parker published her first short story, "Such a Pretty Little Picture," for Smart Set.

When the New Yorker debuted in 1925, Parker was listed on the editorial board. Over the years, she contributed poetry, fiction and book reviews as the "Constant Reader."

Parker’s first collection of poetry, Enough Rope, was published in 1926, and was a bestseller. Her two subsequent collections were Sunset Gun in 1928 and Death and Taxes in 1931. Her collected fiction came out in 1930 as Laments for the Living.

During the 1920s, Parker traveled to Europe several times. She befriended Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, socialites Gerald and Sarah Murphy, and contributed articles to the New Yorker and Life. While her work was successful and she was well-regarded for her wit and conversational abilities, she suffered from depression and alcoholism and attempted suicide.

In 1929, she won the O. Henry Award for her autobiographical short story "Big Blonde." She produced short fiction in the early 1930s, and also began writing drama reviews for the New Yorker. In 1934, Parker married actor-writer Alan Campbell in New Mexico; the couple relocated to Los Angeles and became a highly paid screenwriting team. They labored for MGM and Paramount on mostly forgettable features, the highlight being an Academy Award nomination for A Star Is Born in 1937. They divorced in 1947, and remarried in 1950.

Parker, who became a socialist in 1927 when she became involved in the Sacco and Vanzetti trial, was called before the House on Un-American Activities in 1955. She pleaded the Fifth Amendment.

Parker was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1959 and was a visiting professor at California State College in Los Angeles in 1963. That same year, her husband died of an overdose. On June 6, 1967, Parker was found dead of a heart attack in a New York City hotel at age 73. A firm believer in civil rights, she bequeathed her literary estate to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Upon his assassination some months later, the estate was turned over to the NAACP.

A Selected Bibliography

Poetry

Enough Rope (1926)
Sunset Guns (1928)
Collected Poems: Not So Deep as a Well (1936)
Collected Poetry (1944)
The Portable Dorothy Parker (1991)
Not Much Fun: The Lost Poems of Dorothy Parker (1996)
Complete Poems (1999)

Prose

Constant Reader (1970)

Fiction

Laments for the Living (1930)
After Such Pleasures (1933)
Here Lies (1939)
Collected Stories (1942)

Plays

Close Harmony (1929)

Parties: A Hymn of Hate

Dorothy Parker, 1893 - 1967
I hate Parties;
They bring out the worst in me.

There is the Novelty Affair,
Given by the woman
Who is awfully clever at that sort of thing.
Everybody must come in fancy dress;
They are always eleven Old-Fashioned Girls,
And fourteen Hawaiian gentlemen
Wearing the native costume
Of last season's tennis clothes, with a wreath around the neck.

The hostess introduces a series of clean, home games:
Each participant is given a fair chance
To guess the number of seeds in a cucumber,
Or thread a needle against time,
Or see how many names of wild flowers he knows.
Ice cream in trick formations,
And punch like Volstead used to make
Buoy up the players after the mental strain.
You have to tell the hostess that it's a riot,
And she says she'll just die if you don't come to her next party—
If only a guarantee went with that!

Then there is the Bridge Festival.
The winner is awarded an arts-and-crafts hearth-brush,
And all the rest get garlands of hothouse raspberries.
You cut for partners
And draw the man who wrote the game.
He won't let bygones be bygones;
After each hand
He starts getting personal about your motives in leading clubs,
And one word frequently leads to another.

At the next table
You have one of those partners
Who says it is nothing but a game, after all.
He trumps your ace
And tries to laugh it off.
And yet they shoot men like Elwell.

There is the Day in the Country;
It seems more like a week.
All the contestants are wedged into automobiles,
And you are allotted the space between two ladies
Who close in on you.
The party gets a nice early start,
Because everybody wants to make a long day of it—
The get their wish.
Everyone contributes a basket of lunch;
Each person has it all figured out
That no one else will think of bringing hard-boiled eggs.

There is intensive picking of dogwood,
And no one is quite sure what poison ivy is like;
They find out the next day.
Things start off with a rush.
Everybody joins in the old songs,
And points out cloud effects,
And puts in a good word for the colour of the grass.

But after the first fifty miles,
Nature doesn't go over so big,
And singing belongs to the lost arts.
There is a slight spurt on the homestretch,
And everyone exclaims over how beautiful the lights of the city look—
I'll say they do.

And there is the informal little Dinner Party;
The lowest form of taking nourishment.
The man on your left draws diagrams with a fork,
Illustrating the way he is going to have a new sun-parlour built on;
And the one on your right
Explains how soon business conditions will better, and why.

When the more material part of the evening is over,
You have your choice of listening to the Harry Lauder records,
Or having the hostess hem you in
And show you the snapshots of the baby they took last summer.

Just before you break away,
You mutter something to the host and hostess
About sometime soon you must have them over—
Over your dead body.

I hate Parties;
They bring out the worst in me.

 This poem is in the public domain.

Dorothy Parker

Dorothy Parker

A founding member of the Algonquin Round Table, Dorothy Parker's work was known for its scathing wit and intellectual commentary

by this poet

poem
Only name the day, and we'll fly away
	In the face of old traditions,
To a sheltered spot, by the world forgot,
	Where we'll park our inhibitions.
Come and gaze in eyes where the lovelight lies
	As it psychoanalyzes,
And when once you glean what your fantasies mean
	Life will hold no more surprises.
When you've