Dorothy Parker: Jazz Age Poetess

In honor of this poetry filled week here at White Rose of Avalon I have chosen a poet for this week’s Femme Fatale Friday!   My poet of choice is the great Jazz Age icon Dorothy Parker.   While known best for her quips and acid wit, she is also a woman who had a very gloomy disposition.

Her wit was a way to keep people at arm’s length.   This was a way to protect herself from being emotionally hurt.   This should be unsurprising as it is common for those who are comedic to use their jokes to make keep themselves from pain.    She was born in 1893, and lost her mother at age five, which would impact anyone.   Her father would die in 1913, and she would have to go on to support herself after this.   She was a pianist at a dance school before going into the world of New York magazine publishing!

She began as a caption writer at Vogue, and soon became a staff writer at Vanity Fair.   One of her poems got her the job at Vanity Fair.   She would eventually become Vanity Fair’s drama critic.   During the 20’s, her prime decade, she published some 300 poems in various magazines!    During this time she was also contributing short stories to The New Yorker.   

She was the leader of the New York set of Great American Writers during the Jazz Age.   This connects to another thing that she is well remembered for is the Viscous Circle, the Algonquin Table.   This is the meeting place of Parker and the other great New York based writers of the 1920s.   They would meet and have lavish lunches and dinners at this special reserved table in the Algonquin.    Stories would be swapped and much of their writing would be critiqued.    The champagne would flow, and everyone would be drunk on both the libations, and their own genius!   While F. Scott and Zelda were in Paris with Hemingway, she was making sure the great writers still based in America had a grand old time as they pursued their careers!

It is this no holds barred partying and her iconic wit that make her a perfect subject for Poetry Week’s Femme Fatale Friday!    Of course, as the Depression set in, her star was no longer on the rise.   Her cynical and sentimental mix that so defined the Jazz Age, did not sell well once the Depression was in full swing.    It would become a fact that she was viewed as a sad relic of days gone by, and in her later years her new work was often viewed with surprise she was still alive!   It is very tragic for someone whose writing cemented much of what we view as the Roaring 20s!    She even contemplated taking her own life as she was being forgotten by the world, and who can be surprised by this, given that she used to be one of the most famous women in New York!    She struggled with people often being dismissive of her writing, but she still trudged on no matter what.

She would be married multiple times, and have a rather unhappy love life, even going the Elizabeth Taylor route of remarrying one of her ex-husbands.    Her independent spirit is one of the things that she is best remembered for, and it is likely what kept her going through life’s difficulties!    She would continue living life by her own rules until her death in 1967.

I hope you have enjoyed learning about the irrepressible Dorothy Parker for this Femme Fatale Friday during Poetry Week here at White Rose of Avalon.   Let me know your thoughts in the comments below, and please join me next week for Femme Fatale Friday!

Note on Image: The image at the top of the post is Dorothy Parker.   I found the image on

Further Reading