Poet’s Corner


Illumination Night: Oak Bluffs
By Dionis Coffin Riggs
(from “The Collected Poems of Dionis Coffin Riggs”)

Just once each year
I can recapture something
Of childhood’s summer-scented magic
When, on Illumination Night,
The band plays in the park.
And one by one, instead of stars,
The Chinese lanterns light the dark
Tree-sheltered sky.
The shadows of the oak trees, dwarfed
And twisted by the wind,
Loom giantlike among
The little houses made of wood,
Or gingerbread.
At last each house is hung
From porch to peak
With lanterns, and the people
Sit in rocking chairs, or walk
Around, around the circle.
Wind-stirred sea air,
Marigolds and popcorn,
The smoke of candle wicks.
How brief the flame!

Dionis Coffin (Riggs) was born in Edgartown, August 6, 1898. She was raised in West Tisbury by her grandparents and maiden aunt and was immersed in tales of adventures at sea. She wrote a New York Times bestseller, “From Off Island,” and more than a thousand poems inspired by her upbringing and later travels. She died on April 20, 1997 at age 98. Her poetry is celebrated annually on her birthday with a reading at the West Tisbury library by members of the Cleaveland House Poets, a group she started over 50 years ago. This year’s reading will take place at 3:30 pm on Saturday, August 6, and is free to the public.

Poets with a connection to Martha’s Vineyard are encouraged to submit poems to curator Laura Roosevelt at ldroosevelt@gmail.com.