Research Proposal: Dorothy Parker Poems

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Dorothy Parker: The Good, The Bad, And the Funny

Life is too short to be sad. This attitude sums up the poetry of Dorothy Parker, who attempted to write about things from a slightly different and refreshing point-of-view. Parker was one that was not afraid to express her feelings on any given topic. Her poetic style allows her to approach many subjects with a sense of ease in that she views them from a poetic, yet playful point-of-view. Parker does not want that fact that she is a woman stand in the way of things. In fact, she is quite happy allowing her womanhood take her to places that only women can go while at the same time not letting her womanhood prevent her from going places that she feels she deserves to go. There was no subject too sensitive nor was there a subject too trivial for Parker. Parker's poems stand alone as testaments to her wit and talent for observing and capturing an essence of the human condition that is sometimes better viewed with a sense of humor.

Parker is nothing if she is not comedic in her art. Critic Arthur Kinney asserts that "Bohemia" is a successful poem "because of the wisecracking bravado" (Kinney). The poet provides us with a loose social commentary on basically every profession there is with a healthy dose of humor. She writes, "Authors and actors and artists and such / Never know nothing, and never know much" (Parker Bohemia 1-2), which sets the mood and tone for this poem to be light yet informative and entertaining. Kinney claims that this poem "falls back into a greater allusive sweep by interrogating the solicitation on which '[a]uthors and actors and artists and such' depend; patronage as well as approval" (Kinney). The rhythm of the poem moves quickly and in Kinney's opinion, has a "singsong rhythm" (Kinney) that is also present in other poems. This rhythm allows to the poem to read quickly. Another poem that contains the same rhythmic quality is "Coda." This poem is jocular in that the poet examines "this living" (3) and determines that this living is not something she signed up for and asks for directions to Hell at the poem's conclusion to signify her frustration with living and her eagerness to get be done with it. These poems offer serious opinions about life and yet they are set to a lyric that reads like a child's poem. They are unique in this way and this combination makes them linger in our memory. Here we can see the poet's attitudes, and while they may be harsh or abrasive, she is wrapping them up nicely in a clever rhythm. Critic Lynn Bloom contends, "Coda is filled with slang and "provokes laughter in what might otherwise have been serious contexts" (Bloom). "Condolence" is another poem in which we see the poet's sense of humor. While this poem is all about death, the poet finds comfort in considering how the dead would laugh at the things those wishing condolences said. The smile is not forced but rather creeps upon the poet easily. Irony finds a place in the most dreadful of circumstances. These poems show us the poet's ability to look at certain things from a different and comical point-of-view.

Parker's poems reveal a sense of assertiveness, which is uncommon for a woman in her time. One poem in which Parker asserts her womanhood is "But Not Forgotten," in which reveals that she is aware of her lovers' tendency to stray. She writes, "I think, no matter where you stray, / That I shall go with you a way" (Stray 1-2). While her lover may "wander sweeter lands" (3), she is confident that he will not forget her hands. In addition, she is also confident that her lover will not forget "the way I held my head, / Nor all the tremulous things I said" (5-6). The poet is not afraid to confront her lover as long as he is not afraid to see her "small and white / And smiling in the secret night" (8). We can see that the poet is filled with confidence in this poem because she is convinced that her lover will always hold her in his memory no matter where he is or where he goes. Another poem that demonstrates the poet's assertiveness is "Epitaph for a Darling Lady," in which she looks upon the life of a woman as one that is filled with "yellow sands" (Parker Epitaph for a Darling Lady 1) and "shiny" (5) days. This woman's contented days are filled by the happy fact that her dust is "very pretty" (12). In "Afternoon," the poet faces the inevitability of old age and is looking at it with a certain peace and calm. She writes that she will "forget the way of tears, / And rock, and stir my tea" (13-4). The poem's conclusion is similar to other poems in that it catches us by surprise and hints toward a universal truth with a touch of cynicism. "Bric-a-Brac" also takes an interesting look at the small things we tend to collect over the years and then accusing lonely people as the only ones that collect such things including something so simple as the poem itself. These poems illustrate Parker's assertiveness in that she is not afraid to talk about certain things in the world. Topics ranging from love to death do not intimidate Parker and only seem to inspire her to write more.

Things are not perfect in the world and this simple fact gives the poet room for plenty of sarcasm. In "The Evening Primrose," the poet is well aware of herself and her place in the world -- especially the world of love. The poet begins the poem by elaborating on the "unearthly white" (Parker The Evening Primrose 1) bloom that no one has seen by "morning light" (2). Here we are introduced to the notion of something that can be seen but not touched. Only the "tender moon" (3) is lucky enough to experience the "secret air" (4) of this mystic blossom, one of which the poet admits she is not. There is no remorse in this statement, only an acceptance of the facts. We see her attitude reflected in "Wail," where the poet admits that love has "gone a-rocketing" (Parker Wail 1) and while this is bad thing, it is not the worst of her problems. She adds that joy has left her, too, and for these reasons, she is ready for someone to dig her grave because she is "bereft" (Parker Wail 10) because all of her "pretty hates" (11) are dead. She concludes the poem by admitting she has nothing left that these pretties have left her life. In "The Burned Child," the poet also shows us a side of her love life that is less than picture perfect. She admits that love has had its way with her, stating, "This my heart torn and maimed / Since he took his play with me" (2-3). She goes on to say that Cupid, the "bow-boy" (was cruel to her when he shot his feathered shaft at her where it was "Dripping bright and bitter red" (6). Cupid's reaction is even more cruel when he shrugs "his wings and laughed - / Better had he left me dead" (7-8). Here we see the importance of a sense of humor when encountering some of the more painful issues of love. These poems show us how the poet could face some of the difficult things in life with irony and wit.

Dorothy Parker had an incredible, unique voice that leaves a lasting impression because she has the ability to look at certain things with a different perspective. Some things in life cannot… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Dorothy Parker Poems.  (2009, March 29).  Retrieved June 18, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/dorothy-parker-poems/999608

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"Dorothy Parker Poems."  Essaytown.com.  March 29, 2009.  Accessed June 18, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/dorothy-parker-poems/999608.