A Controversial Poem

One of the poems contained in Enough Rope is titled “Résumé” and it is a lot more controversial than I would have guessed. I first read this poem in 2014 and it struck me as something…horrifying but powerful. Here it goes:

“Résumé”

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.

To give context, Parker was often depressed and attempted suicide. Her poetry is full of angst, cynicism, and a longing for death. I feel like a poem like this reflects her worldview. There is no hope; this is life. Besides, isn’t there theory that one of the stages of tragedy is humor? In her mocking way, she’s wrestling with the tragedy of her own life. This isn’t designed to be serious, yet it is serious. That is why I find it haunting. 

However, one reviewer on Goodreads calls it, “callous and nursery-rhymish, and too shallow for the profound subject.” He goes on to call its conclusion, “a shopping list of smug quips.”

I’ve been chewing over his words but I find I can’t agree. It is powerful and depressing precisely because it is so trite. It is the title that takes this silly list and makes it powerful. It is “Résumé” because she knows these things only too well. 

What are your thoughts? Is this poem insensitive or powerful?  Haunting or humorless? 

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