Helena Bonham-Carter reads One Perfect Rose

7 October is National Poetry Day and it’s only fitting to share a poem. This is taken from the brilliant new anthology by Allie Esiri, A Poet for Every Day of the Year that features everyone from Bob Dylan to Lord Byron and Wendy Cope. Here is Dorothy Parker’s One Perfect Rose read aloud by Helena Bonham Carter – her favourite poem in the collection – along with an extract from the book.


One Perfect Rose by Dorothy Parker

22 August 1893 – 7 June 1967

Anyone who says that Americans don’t have a dry, ironic sense of humour like the British has clearly not read any Dorothy Parker. The critic, poet, author and screenwriter (of the often-adapted 1937 classic film A Star is Born) turned cynicism and witticisms into an art in both her literary writing and her articles for all of the major New York publications. But as is sadly often the case with those who make us laugh the most, Parker struggled with depression throughout her life, and was often heard to be dismissive of her own immense talents. Her most notable influence however, was the similarly sharp Edna St Vincent Millay, of whom Parker once said: ‘I was following in [her] exquisite footsteps, unhappily in my own horrible sneakers.’ Despite being best known for her humour, Parker was also engaged with serious political issues of her day, and she left most of her estate to Martin Luther King, Jr. when she died to help further promote the Civil Rights Movement. Still, she didn’t leave the world without offering a few final quips, advocating that her epitaph should read either ‘Excuse my dust’ or ‘If you can read this, you’re standing too close’. No doubt Spike Milligan would have approved!

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.

A Poet for Every Day of the Year by Allie Esiri, published by Macmillan, 16 September 2021, £20 here.
Source: alittlebird

Helena Bonham-Carter reads One Perfect Rose