1 February 2022 Susannah

Dorothy Parker & One Perfect Rose

Dorothy Parker with a red rose

I have been lucky enough to have lunch at the famous Round Table at the Algonquin Hotel in New York. This was where Dorothy Parker and her witty, word-loving friends used to hang out.

If you couldn’t keep up with the clever conversation, you were not encouraged to come again, but Dorothy was the centre and mainstay of the group and there was never any doubt about her ability to contribute biting comments and satirical reviews of the works of others.

I love her poem One Perfect Rose, so thought I’d share it with you all this month.

One Perfect Rose by Dorothy Parker

A single flow’r he sent me, since we met.
All tenderly his messenger he chose;
Deep-hearted, pure, with scented dew still wet –
One perfect rose.

I knew the language of the floweret;
“My fragile leaves,” it said, “his heart enclose.”
Love long has taken for his amulet
One perfect rose.

Why is it no one ever sent me yet
One perfect limousine, do you suppose?
Ah no, it’s always just my luck to get
One perfect rose.

The poem was included in her first book Enough Rope, published in 1926. Dorothy went on to enjoy considerable success as a writer, and she even worked in Hollywood writing screenplays. I love her short story / monologue A Telephone Call.

In the poem the speaker / poet dryly mocks the cliched romantic gesture of giving one’s lover a rose. She makes us see that rose so clearly – “Deep-hearted, pure, with scented dew still wet”. She is poking fun at the sexist idea that every woman is totally satisfied with a flower, which will die after a few days. Instead, she would much prefer a flash car as a gift. It’s a poem that questions the symbolism, the meaning and the depth of so-called ‘true love’. It’s also a poem about dissatisfaction – do those we love ever really give us exactly what we want?

Do you like to receive a perfect rose as a gift? Does this poem appeal to you? Tell me what you think by leaving a comment.

You can listen to Dorothy herself reading the poem here:

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Featured image credit- Dorothy Parker with a red rose, images from https://www.goodreads.com/author_blog_posts/10147303-las-huellas-de-dorothy-parker, and https://pixabay.com/photos/rose-red-flower-flora-botany-4923736/
Body image credit- The Round Table, Algonquin Hotel, https://m.imdb.com/title/tt0094119/

Comments (12)

  1. Brian Doyle

    Dorothy Parker is timeless her brilliant wit will endure forevermore, one of the greatest literary women artists of her generation who draws you back again and again to all of her work.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      So many of her contemporary writers have dated, but not Dorothy. You are right – she is timeless!

  2. Honey

    I was surprised that Parker’s voice was so pretty.

    She read the poem perfectly as if she were reading a straight poetic piece of romantic verse. Marvelous.

    I also read her short story please let him call…I think of Dorothy Parker as a wise guy. She is so much more.

    As usual, thank you for continuing to teach me.

    Susannah Fullerton you are a wonder and i adore you.

    I will share this with firends.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      You have made my day! Thanks for your lovely comments. I’m so pleased you enjoy the literary work I do. I have an exciting new series coming up soon – more news about that very soon!
      Yes, I think we expect more of a strident NY accent from Dorothy Parker, but her voice is lovely to listen to.

  3. Melvyn Dickson

    Beautiful item from the hallowed Dorothy Parker. I hope you were treated to some with when you lunched at the Algonquin.

  4. My late husband had his secretary send me huge splashy bunches of flowers to my place of work very regularly – if I were a poet I would have written something along the same lines as DP. To me it was public display of his intention to soon own me. He was quite the male chauvinist pig!
    Fortunately his desire for me allowed me to convince him to mend his ways and before too many rocky years passed he became a wonderful companion for the next 30 years.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Yes, sending flowers can be too easy, especially if the secretary can send them. Well done on training him to improve!
      The way to my heart is via books and poems.

  5. Geraldine Bull

    I do love books and poems read by the authors as there is an added element to the expressions.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Yes, you know they are putting the stresses and pauses exactly where they should go. But a few can be disappointing – I don’t like Yeats reading ‘The Lake Isle of Innisfree’, for example.


    Reminds me of Eliza Doolittles song “Show Me”….. words and gestures are shallow, but something of substance would be more meaningful.
    Dorothy would have loved a limo with the “beloved” waiting with a bottle of Veuve or being whisked off to a romantic hideaway !

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Yes, I think Dorothy could be more easily wooed by Veuve, a limo, and a good pile of books. I know I could!
      You’ve reminded me that I must watch My Fair Lady again – my favourite musical.

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