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Indian Hill Press - Martha's Vineyard
DAW Story
[Photo of Clipping]  From 1982 to the late 1990s, the pages of the Vineyard Gazette were full of little rhymes like the one on the left. Their author, who went by the pseudonym of D.A.W., wrote more than two thousand poems in this vein. Why would anyone write such calculatedly short verses, and why the initials?

 Many years ago, after graduating from college, D.A.W. worked for our weekly Island newspaper, the Vineyard Gazette. In those days before desktop publishing, every news story and advertisement for the entire week's edition had to be typeset by one of the Gazette's two compositors. D.A.W. was one of those compositors.
 There is a design problem which plagues newspapers with predictable regularity. Often a news or feature article will run too short, leaving unexpected blank space on the page. Some small item is needed to fill the hole. In the newspaper trade, these hole-pluggers are referred to as "fillers."

 Sometimes the solution is as simple as moving an ad from one page to another. Sometimes a short birth announcement can be tucked into the empty spot. But sometimes there are no convenient ads or babies to help the layout people cope with their holes. That's how D.A.W.'s career was born.
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 During lunch hour or at odd moments, the young typesetter began composing two- and four-line verses just big enough to plug holes in case of emergency. The brevity and utilitarian nature of the poems seemed to merit no more than his initials as a byline. Soon every edition of the Gazette carried a sprinkling of these semi-anonymous "fillers."
[Photo of Clipping]  Gazette readers grew fond of the tiny rhyming squibs, which gradually attracted a loyal readership all their own. Some of D.A.W.'s verses dealt with the peculiarities of living on Martha's Vineyard. Most, however, had a universal appeal. At times witty, at times lyrical, D.A.W. could be counted on to write in a free-wheeling way about life in general and human nature in particular.

 The position of in-house Gazette poet turned out to be one of unheard-of privilege. Since the verses entered the newspaper directly from the typesetting room, they never passed the editor's desk. It was a freedom enjoyed by no other writer on the staff. On more than one occasion, we suspect, the editors of the Vineyard Gazette were as surprised as anyone else by what appeared in their Friday morning newspaper.
 In later years, D.A.W. left the newspaper for other jobs, but continued to write. To this day, fresh batches of D.A.W. verses regularly find their way to Yankee Magazine, the Cape and Islands National Public Radio station, and occasionally, yes, the Vineyard Gazette, which proudly maintains the centuries-long tradition of newspaper verse long abandoned by trendy modern media.

 Was the identity of D.A.W. ever revealed? Over time, and with age, the poet reluctantly stepped out from behind his cloak of anonymity and began publishing longer poems under his real name: Daniel Alan Waters, of West Tisbury. In 2006, at their annual town meeting, the citizens of West Tisbury created the position of Town Poet Laureate, and the selectmen voted to make D.A.W. the town's first poet to hold this title.

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