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Keeping the Faith: Poetry du Jour

By Bob Jones
Mar 8, 2017

On a cold evening in January, I wandered around the Art Walk in downtown Guerneville and made my way to the Russian River Art Gallery. There, amid walls covered with some really fine paintings and photographs, was poet Scott Reid sitting behind a portable typewriter that rested on a card table. He wore a kind of artistic smock and a black beret, which is not unusual attire for him. He's a poet and he looks the part.

A woman was seated across from him, and they were talking intently about a poem Scott was going to write for her. For 10 or 15 minutes there was good natured but earnest give and take, with Scott jotting down notes as the conversation unfolded. Then Scott rolled some paper into the typewriter, randomly opened a big dictionary about in the middle, scanned down the page until he came to a word that seemed to fit what they had been talking about, and began to type.

In maybe five minutes, the woman had a three stanza poem of about 30 lines that captured something she felt about herself, and she was delighted. She squealed, in fact, and showed her poem to her friends, and they squealed too.

It seemed like having your portrait done by one of those sidewalk artists who looks you over and tries to put your characteristic features in a quick drawing, but what Scott produces is an inner portrait, a glimpse of the soul. He tells me people seem particularly pleased to have him talk with them about what is in their hearts, what is most important to them, and then give them words and lines and stanzas that put it right there before their eyes.

He receives $10 or $20 for his effort, or whatever people can pay him. They seem to feel they get more than their money's worth.

Scott Reid is a serious poet. He has a master's degree from the UC Davis creative writing program, was a Poet in the Schools for 12 years, and is a constant practitioner of the art. His writing habits prepare him well for his present poetic enterprise. He writes a poem, or many poems, before he gets out of bed in the morning. In the years I've known him through our Russian River Writers Group, he's filled countless notebooks with these writings. He doesn't wait for the right mood, he writes.

Among these early morning writings are charming poems about children and the night sky. He captures what it felt like as a child to sense oneself soaring up from bed out among the stars. I still have dreams like that once in a while, great adventures they seem, but a little scary. In clear childlike words, Scott gets all this down, including that moment of relief when I land safely in my own warm bed.

As the Art Walk was coming to an end, I asked Scott to write a poem for my wife on her birthday. He pulled out an old, unconnected dial telephone, spun the dial a few times, handed me the receiver, and told me Arline was on the line and I should tell her about a special time we had. I don't know what I said exactly, but Scott got the poem started like this: "In the south of France/near Monet's garden/the fragrance of/lavender mixes well/ with the songs/you sing." Yes, that's how I felt during our travels those years ago, and Scott brought it all into the present as if it's still happening. Surely, that's one thing poems are for.

Scott Reid's Poetry du Jour is available for parties, weddings, even wakes I suppose. He calls it Gift Poetry, "written to order for people you love and for guests at your events."

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Bob Jones is the former minister of the Guerneville and Monte Rio Community Church.

This column originally appeared in Sonoma West Times & News.
Reprinted with permission.