Gabbing with Grace: an ode to Dorothy Parker


Grace Sherban

Campus Editor Grace Sherban discusses Dorothy Parker, one of her favorite poets on her bookshelf

Grace Sherban, Campus Editor

The first time I heard the name Dorothy Parker was during a binge listen of one of my favorite podcasts titled “You Must Remember This.” In the words of host and author Karina Longworth, “‘You Must Remember Thisis a podcast dedicated to exploring the secret and/or forgotten histories of Hollywood’s first century.”

“The Blacklist” is my personal favorite season of the show and each episode is dedicated to learning more about a person or movie that was affected by the House of Un-American Activities Committee or HUAC for short. In between an episode about the Hollywood Ten and another that takes a closer look on the making of John Huston’s “The African Queen” is an episode simply titled “Dorothy Parker.” 

While I first viewed this episode as a necessary filler before getting to the good one about Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn, this episode about some poet I never heard of impacted me greatly . 

Longworth has a knack for storytelling and her depiction of Parker being a centerpiece of the Algonquin Roundtable and screenwriter of the original “A Star is Born” left me completely fascinated by the life of this woman. Despite being blacklisted in Hollywood at the height of her career because of her communist ties, she was still able to continue her legacy through her short stories and poems. 

Flashforward to this summer when I took a bike ride down to Coventry and picked up my very own copy of “The Portable Dorothy Parker” from Mac’s Backs-Books. This purchase was motivated by a fond remembrance of enjoying reading her poetry during my senior year of high school. 

As I read through her poems, I stopped dead in my tracks. Why was every other poem making me either cry or contemplate every life choice I’ve ever made? 

She’s not the type of poet to get bogged down with big, complicated words or head scratching metaphors. She simply writes about life in a way that people can relate to and see parts of themselves in. 

While I would love to mention a few of her poems I am only going to discuss one for the sake of brevity and, who knows, I might write another column about her works. So, the poem I will talk about is taken from my copy of “The Portable Dorothy Parker” and goes as follows, 


If I don’t drive around the park,

I’m pretty sure to make my mark.

If I’m in bed each night by ten, 

I may get back my looks again.

If I abstain from fun and such,

I’ll probably amount to much:

But I shall stay the way I am, 

Because I do not give a damn. 

So what’s this all mean? Personally, I just find “Observation” to be extremely funny, witty and a piece of unpretentious poetry. The piece is about Parker acknowledging the error of her ways  and concluding that she would rather continue having fun and being herself than changing for her own betterment. 

This idea of essentially being trapped by your own bad habits is something that I think about quite often. Recently, I had two weeks to write a paper for one of my classes but I ended up beginning and finishing it the day before it was due. 

I had multiple opportunities to work on it but I was always asked to do something much more appealing like hanging out with friends or just watching a movie. To echo Parker’s sentiment, I would have been less stressed if I used my free time to work on this paper but instead I took those moments to enjoy myself with friends. 

The main theme of “Observation” is living your own version of life and not caving to societal expectations just for success. In terms of poems, this is one that virtually every young person can relate to which, in my experience, is hard to say about a lot of other poetry.

This is just one of multiple Parker poems relevant to my own life. It gives me hope that despite all my flaws, I am living my life in a way that it is right for me.