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Resume -- Dorothy Parker

(Poem #150) Resume
Razors pain you;
Rivers are damp;
Acids stain you;
And drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren't lawful;
Nooses give;
Gas smells awful;
You might as well live.
-- Dorothy Parker
Another poem that needs very little by way of commentary (which part
*don't* you understand? <g>). 'Resume' is certainly Parker's best-known
poem, though not necessarily her best, and in a way it captures her
style perfectly - at once humorous and despairing; flippant on the
surface, yet concealing an undercurrent of pain[1], and above all
perfectly polished. Parker's poetry has been criticised for its
brittleness; it admittedly comes nowhere near the sheer brilliance of
her short stories, or the rapier wit of her reviews, but it's still
entertaining, often incisive and at times even moving.


[1] Not immediately obvious when reading the poem in isolation, but
suggested when taken in the context of her life and work.


There's a nice essay at [broken link]


Parker, Dorothy

b. Aug. 22, 1893, West End, N.J., U.S.
d. June 7, 1967, New York, N.Y.

nee ROTHSCHILD, American short-story writer and poet, known for her
witty remarks.

Parker grew up in affluence in New York City, attending Miss Dana's
School in Morristown, N.J., and a Roman Catholic convent school in New
York City. She then became drama critic for the magazine Vanity Fair.
She and two other writers for the magazine--Robert Benchley, the
humorist, and Robert Sherwood, then a drama critic and later a
playwright--formed the nucleus of the Algonquin Round Table, an informal
luncheon club held at New York's Algonquin Hotel. She married Edwin Pond
Parker II in 1917 (divorced 1928).

Discharged from Vanity Fair in 1920 for the acerbity of her drama
reviews, she became a freelance writer. She initiated a personal kind of
book reviewing in The New Yorker magazine as "Constant Reader." Some of
these reviews, which started in 1927 and appeared intermittently until
1933, were collected in A Month of Saturdays (1971). Her first volume of
verse, Enough Rope, was a best-seller when it appeared in 1926. Two
other books of verse, Sunset Gun (1928) and Death and Taxes (1931), were
collected with it in Collected Poems: Not So Deep as a Well (1936).

In 1929 she won the O. Henry Award for the best short story of the year
with "Big Blonde," a compassionate account of an aging party girl.
Laments for the Living (1930) and After Such Pleasures (1933) were
collections of her short stories, combined and augmented in 1939 as Here
Lies. Characteristic of both the stories and verses is a view of the
human situation as simultaneously tragic and funny.

In 1933, newly married, she and her second husband, Alan Campbell, went
to Hollywood to collaborate as film writers, receiving screen credits
for more than 15 films, including A Star Is Born (1937), nominated for
an Academy Award. She became active in left-wing politics, disdained her
former role as a smart woman about town, reported from the Spanish Civil
War, and discovered that her beliefs counted against her employment by
the studios in the fervour of anticommunism that seized Hollywood after
World War II. She wrote book reviews for Esquire magazine and
collaborated on two plays: The Coast of Illyria (first performance
1949), about the English essayist Charles Lamb, performed briefly in
Dallas, Texas, and London; and The Ladies of the Corridor (1953), about
lonely widows in side-street New York hotels, which had a short run on
Broadway. An earlier play, Close Harmony, written with Elmer Rice, also
had a short New York run in 1924.

Parker's witty remarks are legendary. When told of the death of the
taciturn U.S. president Calvin Coolidge, she is said to have asked, "How
can they tell?" Of Katharine Hepburn's performance in a 1934 play,
Parker said she "ran the gamut of emotions from A to B." She also is
responsible for the couplet "Men seldom make passes / at girls who wear

        -- EB

102 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Bleheather123 said...

blunt, to the point. dorothy parker was one of the best writers, ever.

Michael J. Hardy EMT-BD said...

Blunt and to the point , yes.

I learned and memorized this peom my sophmore year in High School. Not only has it stuck with me all these years, but it saved my life. I have helped others by telling them this poem. I feel it should be an integral part of any persons office that deals in suicidal people. Dorothy had her head on straight when she wrote this.

I can only say thank you to my teacher Mr.Thompson at Sahuaro High in Tucson, AZ for making me learn this poem.

Razors Pain you;
Rivers are damp,
Acids stain you:
Drugs cause cramp.

Guns aren't lawful;
nooses give.
Gas smells awful;
You might as well live.
--- Dorothy R. Parker

Deanna McSpadden said...

I found this poem in the 70's in high school. Somehow to this day I
have it still memorized. My daughter is doing a paper on suicide for a
Psych class. This poem just flew out of my mouth, so naturally, I
decided to try to find who the author was (I don't think my daughter
believed that I didn't make it up!) I enjoyed reading about Dorothy
Parker. Thanks!


Handjive29 said...

I found this poem in the 80's and it struck home hard with the problems at
the time , and its one of those thing that just stays with you. kinda keeps you
sane to know its a normal thing to have bad as well as good thoughts. and a
special thanks to mrs. parker for putting itto such a commonly felt phrase, even
when we always cant put it into words.

Gina Vanezis said...

I like this poem as it gets straight to the point and keeps an almost light hearted feel even though it concerns such a serious issue. I like the way that Parker has flipped the perspective and discusses why you should not commit suicide instead of saying why you should want to live. This poem is very straightforward and to the point which is also why I think it is good.

Sophia Vanezis

Dr. Tsang Pak Ho said...

Dorothy was suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder. This is not an
uncommon "disorder" one can find among people one knows, overwhelmingly in
women. Her personality "disorder" dictates her life events and her writings.

TPH (a doctor)

may bago said...

hi ms. parker

actually this is not a comment i just want to know
more about the poem which entitled resume. i just want
to know the reason why does resume was written? I have
to research about this and I cantable to find it thats
why I decided to use this one.


God Bless!

Anonymous said...

This poem is stated in the movie " Girl Interrupted" by Angelina Jolie's character, Lisa. After hearing this, I listened to it over and over again until I had it memorized. I still repeat it in my head on days Im feeling down.

- a current borderline

Laura M. Steinert said...

This poem kept me alive through junior high. What may seem humorous and
too simple to contemplate for the well adjusted can mean much to those
it was intended to address.

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Tanya said...

I too, like others on this thread, think this is a great poem. But
unlike others I don't see it as comforting, it doesn't make me feel
less suicidal. I read it and see a sort of sad hopelessness in it. You
might as well live? because suicide is too painful— It doesn't make me
feel better. But the clever irony in it does make me laugh despite
feeling sad. I also might add, there is an idea that suicide is
contagious, (the reason reports of suicides are suppressed in the
newspapers)- I am surprised that someone's high school teacher gave
them this poem.

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Anonymous said...

To me it did not mean killing your self was to painful but it too was also pointless . I have read this piece over and over and for me it seems she is saying might as well live because death is not any better then life .

Anonymous said...

I think of suicide on almost a daily basis. A friend of mine suggested this poem. It is the ignorance and negligence by others that causes my suffering. Pain to live, pain to die. Nothing is easy. Please stop judging and labeling someone because they are different.

Anonymous said...

I was a feshman in high school in 1995 when my English teacher, Miss Michelena from Page High School, wrote this poem on the board. I immediately wrote it down in my book and it seemed to have stuck with me. I am grateful for having been introduced to this poem as it too has helped me in some dark places. It always seems to creep back into my head when it is needed. Thank you Miss Mich!

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