The Poetry of Dan Waters: West Tisbury Poet Laureate 2006-2009


West Tisbury Poet Laureate Daniel Waters opens the 2007 Annual Town Meeting with a poem. (Photo by Ralph Stewart)

Born November 25, 1955 in Bloomfield, New Jersey, poet Daniel Waters was raised in Sao Paulo, Brazil. He received his B.A. in English at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, where he studied fiction writing with authors Kit Reed and Paul Horgan. Upon graduating from college in 1977, he moved to Martha’s Vineyard, a small island off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

Geographically and culturally isolated from poetry’s academic centers, and contrarian by temperament, Waters found his first audience among the general public who were not habitual readers of poetry. His earliest publication was in the Vineyard Gazette, the local weekly newspaper where his humorous quatrains appeared for over twenty years under the initials “D.A.W.” In 1996 his poems became a regular feature of Yankee Magazine, a monthly New England periodical of wide regional circulation. He also recorded his verses for daily broadcast on the Cape and Islands’ National Public Radio station.

It was not till 2005 that Waters became known for his more serious work. Still working within the unfashionable constraints of formal poetry (meter, rhyme, and forms like the sonnet and villanelle), he won the 2005 Westmeadow Press Chapbook Contest. The resulting book, “Needing Winter,” a collection of 28 poems dedicated to life on Martha’s Vineyard during the off season, was warmly received both locally and within formalist circles.

In 2006, Waters was invited to read at the Powow River Poets Reading Series in Newburyport, Massachusetts. That spring, his sonnet “Jellyfish” won first prize at the Newburyport Art Association Poetry Contest, and in June he was appointed Poet Laureate of West Tisbury, a position to which he was re-appointed in 2007. He also won a “Highly Commended” award in the 2006 Margaret Reid Contest for Traditional Verse.

The poetry of Daniel Waters has appeared in Yankee Magazine, the Vineyard Gazette, Martha’s Vineyard Magazine, Martha’s Vineyard Writing, Green Prints, Light Quarterly, First Things, and The Hypertexts (

Some examples of poems about West Tisbury, by Daniel Waters: