Enough Rope

By Dorothy Parker

481 ratings - 4.33* vote


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Book details

hardcover, 110 pages
1926 by Boni & Liveright
Original Title
Enough Rope
Edition Language

Community Reviews


Keep me from the old distress;
Let me, for our happiness,
Be the one to love the less.

– Dorothy Parker, "Somebody’s song"

It takes a certain kind of humor, singularity and incurable ennui to be able to enjoy this poetry collection written by a woman whose words had the ability to build and destroy, whose voice—louder at first and brittle by the end of the sentence but always effective—was hidden inside a delicate body which could break at any moment. A woman who revolutionized the beginning of the 20th century with her quick mind, her sardonic remarks, her peculiar heart, a heavy a heart it is / That hangs about my neck—a clumsy stone / Cut with a birth, a death, a bridal-day. I may be playing with your perception. If you only knew the rest of that poem.
A Well-Worn Story
In April, in April,
My one love came along,
And I ran the slope of my high hill
To follow a thread of song.

His eyes were hard as porphyry
With looking on cruel lands;
His voice went slipping over me
Like terrible silver hands.

Together we trod the secret lane
And walked the muttering town.
I wore my heart like a wet, red stain
On the breast of a velvet gown.

In April, in April,
My love went whistling by,
And I stumbled here to my high hill
Along the way of a lie.

Now what should I do in this place
But sit and count the chimes,
And splash cold water on my face
And spoil a page with rhymes?

I was aware of Dorothy Parker’s existence but this year, for some reason, I finally decided to become acquainted with her work. She is now part of my list of favorite authors. Enough rope, published in 1926, was her first poetry collection. Her verse speaks of love and its curses, unbearable absence, Death unable to fulfill its goal, the secondary role of a woman during those years and the fact that, despite all misadventures, another day awaits; another circle of joy and disappointment— you might as well live. I've read this volume and Sunset Gun aloud, relishing every word, the different meanings and fluent musicality. That's unusual for me.
The Small Hours
No more my little song comes back;
And now of nights I lay
My head on down, to watch the black
And wait the unfailing gray.

Oh, sad are winter nights, and slow;
And sad's a song that's dumb;
And sad it is to lie and know
Another dawn will come.

As I kept reading Parker's poems, I saw her memories behind almost each line. Her tragic life, replete with many useless men and brief sparks of love, or something similar mixed with diversion.
Never disillusion has been discussed so cleverly. One look at her "Ballade of a great weariness" and its sharp, recurring line (scratch a lover, and find a foe) would suffice. However, despite her caustic tongue, her penchant for drama and self-destruction or her apparent inability to learn from her mistakes, I also discovered a strong woman who hardly followed conventional rules, disliked the domestic life forced upon women and at times surpassed men in their own game. Moreover, I found a resilient person who was able to re-adapt, as well as she could though she couldn’t do much, to life after great loss—the kind of loss that transcends the sometimes mundane realm of relationships. There are colorful poems, yes, but there is great intimacy and depth behind some playful rhymes to know that there is always enough rope.
Now it's over, and now it's done;
Why does everything look the same?
Just as bright, the unheeding sun,—
Can't it see that the parting came?
People hurry and work and swear,
Laugh and grumble and die and wed,
Ponder what they will eat and wear,—
Don't they know that our love is dead?

Just as busy, the crowded street;
Cars and wagons go rolling on,
Children chuckle, and lovers meet,—
Don't they know that our love is gone?
No one pauses to pay a tear;
None walks slow, for the love that's through,—
I might mention, my recent dear,
I've reverted to normal, too.

Parker’s poetry is remarkably candid. She spoke freely of her failures and fears and her verse is the sum of all emotions. Poignant, witty, cynical, unapologetic—her Symptom Recital is self-explanatory. Never happy, nonetheless. She is part of a group of people that look at life through pessimistic eyes. Her epigrammatic style even helped coin a useful expression. Every time the phone rings, the doorbell sounds, and now, that an email notification arrives, they prepare for the worst. The unknown is out there, waiting to cause harm since that is all they ever knew. And the slightest change makes them wonder, as Parker usually did, “what fresh hell is this?” Poor fearless voices overcome by relentless fears they try to fool with a funny remark. They fool their surroundings. And everything is fine.

June 01, 19
* Later on my blog.
** I keep changing the rating from four to five stars, depending on my mood. Objectively speaking, it is a 4-star book.


I love this little volume...and I normally don't like poetry! Parker is cynical, depressed, and heart-sore yet so real. She is occasionally trite and sarcastic but rarely dull. Sad, yet beautiful, poetry.


One of my favorites:

Daily dawns another day;
I must up, to make my way.
Though I dress and drink and eat,
Move my fingers and my feet,
Learn a little, here and there,
Weep and laugh and sweat and swear,
Hear a song, or watch a stage,
Leave some words upon a page,
Claim a foe, or hail a friend--
Bed awaits me at the end.

Though I go in pride and strength,
I'll come back to bed at length.
Though I walk in blinded woe,
Back to bed I'm bound to go.
High my heart, or bowed my head,
All my days but lead to bed.
Up, and out, and on; and then
Ever back to bed again,
Summer, Winter, Spring, and Fall--
I'm a fool to rise at all!


This book is a true gem written by a woman who was decades ahead of her time. A little treasure that has taken me through so many stages in my life. It has brought me joy, happiness, intense sadness, and wonderful memories. It was my companion in the late 60's given to me by my mother, who said Dorothy Parker was her inspiration growing up. She told me it would be a comfort to me during my time away from home. For me it was an escape, entertainment, and an encouragement while I was in college during those turbulent years of war, protesting, studying, acting, falling in love, and just being a student. I would often read Ms. Parker sitting under a tree, late at night, or just because I needed a good laugh. I often quoted her throughout my teaching career, and on the very last day of my mother's life, while she lay dying from cancer and could no longer speak, I read it to her. I picked up her beloved Dorothy Parker's poetry book "Enough Rope" and went page by page and read each poem aloud, so that she could hear them one last time. By then the book was well loved and dog eared. I'll never forget that my mother's eyes were closed while I read to her and then the color returned to her face and I saw her smile. Her shoulders moved every so slightly and I realized that she was softly laughing. She opened her tired blue eyes briefly and tears trickled down her face. But she was still smiling as I read her favorite poems. She lifted her arm and reached out for me and I held onto her frail hand as I sat by her bedside reading poem after poem. Eventually my mother fell asleep and I put the book down and left the room. My father told me to take a break and to go home to my family and so I did. I went out to dinner with my husband and younger son and by the time I drove up to my house, my older son was waiting outside pacing back and forth. He told me Grandma had just passed away. So my last moments together with my mother were reading "Enough Rope." They made my mother smile, and brought her peacefully to the next plane of her existence. And now every time I pick up a story or poem written by Dorothy Parker, I not only think about the woman who wrote her witty barbs, but I think of my mother who lived and died enjoying the wit and soul of a woman ahead of her time.

Update... My copy of " Enough Rope" was a paperback that my mother bought when she was a teen. For my 64th birthday, my sister found a 2nd edition hardback edition in an antique store and bought it for me. (Along with a few other precious antique gems from the author.)
So I now have a new copy... one I can read and enjoy so that my mother's treasured book can sit proudly next to it, filled with all the memories of the women in my family who were inspired by words and thoughts of the dynamic Ms. Parker.

Daniel Lomax

There's a poem by Dorothy Parker called Résumé. It goes like this:

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.

I dislike this poem. It's callous and nursery-rhymish, and too shallow for the profound subject, and "you might as well live" is probably the least poetic thing ever. It's like a shopping list of smug quips.

In Parker’s defense, she was suicidal herself and this poem shouldn't be taken at face-value. Some of the excuses given are transparently ludicrous – "acids stain you" – so the final line is maybe reverse psychology, or just a mockery of those who live for living's sake. Still, this is the flippant and dismissive work of a "wisecracker", as per her reputation. A lot of the emotion in this volume does seem very sincere, but the author has inadequately mastered the art of sarcasm, and she has a tendency to lapse into writing the kind of platitudes you see circulating around Facebook.

With that in mind, I wrote a more literal antidote. I call it Résignée:

Lovers pain you;
Jobs are a bore;
Age will drain you;
And love will drain you more;
Money is fleeting;
Youth passes by;
Mistakes are self-repeating;
So you might as well die.

Take that, Dorothy.


*Chant for Dark Hours
*Verse Reporting Late Arrival at a Conclusion
*News Item


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.


When she was good, she was VERY very good...


Parker's poems about love and broken hearts are rendered in traditional meters with an airy, off-handed tone similiar to the one Edna St. Vincent Millay perfected in her work. I admire the speaker's persona: an acid-tongued chronicler of the vagaries of love and of wo/men. These poems are bright, biting, clever & exceedingly brittle.


Reading these wonderful poems does not disappoint, I enjoyed every one. She was born a hundred years too soon, I wish she was here now to straighten us out.

Romany Arrowsmith

Dorothy Parker is like an anti-Sara Teasdale (though I have nothing but love for the sweetness of ST's work!). Whereas Teasdale was all unabashed, earnest sentimentality, Parker was all cutting, flippant cynicism. Those who complain about her singsongy style have, astoundingly, managed to completely miss the point of the compilation. Parker intentionally satirizes the singsongy metered rhyme of lovestruck poets like Teasdale and Dickinson. Nevertheless she handily switches gears to a more serious style when she so pleases.

Here's one of her quick, flippant verses:

By the time you swear you're his,
Shivering and sighing,
And he vows his passion is
Infinite, undying -
Lady, make a note of this:
One of you is lying.

next to a couple of her more "poetical" lines:

You do not know how heavy a heart it is
That hangs about my neck- a clumsy stone
Cut with a birth, a death, a bridal-day.
Each time I love, I find it still my own,
Who take it, now to that lad, now to this,
Seeking to give the wretched thing away.

All in all, a great collection. A quick, astute look into the human heart.