In Print : Four new books celebrate the Vineyard
Something about the Vineyard invites celebration in word and image. Four just-released books by Islanders accomplish that admirable goal in a variety of ways.
Daniel Waters, poet laureate of West Tisbury and proprietor of Indian Hill Press, has collected his quatrains, originally published under his initials D.A.W., in his book, "Robert Frost's Answering Machine." The slim, soft-bound book shows off Mr. Waters's distinct and humorous take on Vineyard life that readers have enjoyed since 1982. As he explains in his author's note, his four-line quatrains and two-line couplets started out by serving a practical function as fillers in the Vineyard Gazette, where he worked as a typesetter. They became so popular that they eventually found their way as well into Yankee Magazine and WCAI, the local NPR radio outlet.
While rhymed verse has fallen out of fashion in modern poetry, Mr. Waters brings it back to life with his ingenious ability to find the appropriate rhyme and his often mordant upending of solemnity. The title poem captures these skills perfectly: "Your call's important, thanks a heap, But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, So leave your message at the beep."
A master of the pun, Mr. Waters works his verbal magic in "Moonlight Muncher:" "The deer is a nocturnal beast, To whom a flowerbed's a feast, And that explains, as well it might, Why shepherds watch their phlox by night."
Skillfully designed and illustrated with the poet's linoleum-block prints, "Robert Frost's Answering Machine" is a gem.
Master carpenter Robert Gatchell and his wife, Lynn Gatchell, a science teacher in Tisbury for 30 years, catalogue the unique Carpenter Gothic of Oak Bluffs architecture in two compendia, "Painted Ladies: Corbels & Gingerbread," and "Painted Ladies: Balusters and Columns."
Architectural historians suggest that photographs can give people the distance they need to appreciate the buildings in front of their noses. Each of these books provides more than 600 color photographs of the Victorian cottages and details from them that give Oak Bluffs its unique charm. A much-too-brief introduction explains the tradition that led from tents to storybook cottages in the Martha's Vineyard Camp Meeting Grounds.
Anyone interested in the Carpenter Gothic style of architecture will find these two volumes valuable resources. The disappointment is that poor color reproduction and book design undercut the labor that went into taking and collecting the photographs. They are a testament to the remarkable variety and imagination that went into the houses.
Seasoned writer Phyllis Meras, longtime contributing editor of the Vineyard Gazette, and photographer Betsy Corsiglia, a former staff photographer for The Times, teamed up in "Martha's Vineyard: Quiet Pleasures" to capture some of the seasonal ephemera of our Island. It is a handsome little book that captures scenic aspects of the Island in word and image. Divided into three separate sections --"Relax," "Rejuvenate," and "Remember" -- the book mixes short bursts of well-crafted prose with groups of color photographs.
Ms. Meras uses the occasional essay format to write about her experience of the Island she moved to for its "ponds and fields and flowers, for bird songs, and for clear blue waters." Concerned about the Island's vulnerability to degrading changes, she points out that more than 7,000 houses have been built here during the last 20 years.
Ms. Corsiglia's photography needs no introduction to Islanders. Avoiding the picture-postcard preciosity of many photographers, she wields composition, form and light to bring out hidden aspects of the Vineyard's natural beauty and down-home lifestyle.