Now that Horror Month is done I’m back to the challenge! Number 15 is A book of poems.
This was a tough one for me. I’m not a big reader of poems. However, I am a believer that poetry speaks emotional truths in a way prose does not, with clarity of voice and image. Emotional truths are also hard for me. So poetry might have the power to cut me pretty deep. Perhaps that’s why I generally avoid it, in addition to always being left with the feeling that there’s something I’m just not grasping.
When I do read poetry, I usually am a fan of light verse. I enjoy clever words and quips which entertain while also containing layers. And when I’m blue, I turn to Dorothy Parker. While she doesn’t make me feel better, she at least provides company for my misery. I particularly don’t want to read about beauty and hope and sweetness when all those things feel desperately out of my reach. I want to read about someone in the trenches with me, boots in the mud and matching wounds and coming through adversity boozily and snarkily triumphant. After a fashion.
So Enough Rope, Parker’s first book of poetry (1926), was a good choice for me.
In the tradition of poetry readings (as far as I’ve ever been able to tell, anyway), I’ll just drop a couple of Mrs. Parker’s poems which especially touched me without any preamble or explanation, and then drop the mic. Here’s one:
SONG OF ONE OF THE GIRLS
Here in my heart I am Helen;
I’m Aspasia and Hero, at least.
I’m Judith, and Jael, and Madame de Staël;
I’m Salomé, moon of the East.
Here in my soul I am Sappho;
Lady Hamilton am I, as well.
In me Récamier vies with Kitty O’Shea,
With Dido, and Eve, and poor Nell.
I’m of the glamorous ladies
At whose beckoning history shook.
But you are a man, and see only my pan,
So I stay at home with a book.
There’s also a wonderful vulnerability underneath all the snark and wit, which I also find myself relating to a heck of a lot. There’s substance and a touch of melancholy beneath each piece of “light verse.” Biting and clever, but with a broken heart underneath.
A VERY SHORT SONG
Once, when I was young and true,
Someone left me sad-
Broke my brittle heart in two;
And that is very bad.
Love is for unlucky folk,
Love is but a curse.
Once there was a heart I broke;
And that, I think, is worse.
Nary a silver lining to be found, though, unless it’s in a turn of phrase or a witty reversal. No, you wallow with Mrs. Parker, and then she pushes some booze on you and makes a joke, and you don’t feel too good but you at least know you’ve got a kindred spirit.
Eventually, though, enough’s enough and you have to leave Mrs. Parker’s table. You stagger out into the sunshine and try to make the best of things, knowing that Dorothy Parker will always be there when you need her.