It’s been an amazing summer for poet Reginald Smith.
In June, he was named the 2006 Poet of the Year at the Second Annual Savannah Spoken Word Festival. Not long after, he learned that Essence magazine had chosen one of his poems, Your Voice, for publication in its August issue.
His personal life is happy, too. Smith, also known as “Werdsmiph,” is just about to celebrate the first anniversary of his marriage to a woman he describes as “a perfect poem.”
It is extremely rare for an author to get published in a national magazine, especially when it is his first submission -- ever. “Seeing the poem in the magazine was mind-blowing,” Smith says.
“People said, ‘Congratulations, you made it!’ I said, ‘No, we made it.”
Smith hopes his success will continue, and that Savannah will become known as a mecca for poets and spoken word artists. “We’re already highly recognized for the music festival,” he says.
Savannah has been Smith’s hometown his whole life. He began writing poetry at a young age.
“I started out my freshman year at Jenkins High School,” Smith says. “I got together with Clinton D. Powell (another of Savannah’s poets and spoken word artists) and joined Spitfire Poetry.”
Smith also is affiliated with A.W.O.L. (All Walks of Life) and is a co-founder of the W.O.R.D. (Way of Real Discovery) poetry group at Savannah State University. “They let people know there is a lot of talent in Savannah,” he says.
Smith submitted six manuscripts to Essence. “I got an e-mail from Cynthia Gordon, the editor of Essence, congratulating me for having a poem selected for publication,” he says.
Smith has recorded a compact disk of his poetry that is titled A Tribute of Love. It has 13 tracks that include the poems Your Voice and Aphrodiary, a tribute to Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love.
“There are poems that talk about the many faces of love,” he says. “There is love of self, love of family, love of life, of not forgetting where you came from.”
At the present time, Smith is working on two books. One is a tribute to Savannah and is titled Georgia’s First Daughter.
“Savannah is Georgia’s first city and Georgia’s first daughter,” Smith says. “It is a homage to the state’s First Lady.”
Smith does love his hometown. “It has beautiful scenery and a diversity of talent,” he says.
It isn’t necessary to leave home to achieve your dreams, Smith says. “I’m not from New York, I’m from Savannah,” he says.
In addition to taking his inspiration from his surroundings, Smith also writes about the things he sees, hears and experiences. His wife, Crystal, also is a major inspiration.
“She was my college sweetheart,” Smith says. “We’ve been together for six years. We were engaged for five years and soon will be married a year.”
Crystal is in turn inspired by her husband’s poetry. “She says it always takes her breath away when she hears me speak,” he says.
“My wife is like a perfect poem,” Smith says. “She’s gives me the encouragement, the drive, the strength
“I praise my wife just like I praise God,” he says. “That’s what it’s all about.”
Although their love is poetry, Smith says he and Crystal are “two different creatures.”
“I’m more into poetry, she’s into science and biology,” he says. “We both are searching for something good, and we want the goodness of life.
“By the grace of God, we found each other,” Smith says. “Our love holds us together.”
At some point, Smith plans to write a novel, and his family fully supports his dreams. Family members requested that he write a poem for a family reunion.
The result was Timeless. “It ‘s mostly about keeping the family tree growing,” Smith says. “It’s about knowing that even after you are gone, the family tree is alive and growing.”
While Smith is a poetry and spoken word artist, he’s not a fan of much of the music that is popular today. “When you hear music today, it is the same stuff,” he says.
“It’s all about the fast life, about degrading each other,” Smith says. “It’s all about getting yours. I’d rather listen to Phil Collins.”
Through his poetry, Smith hopes to show that there is a right way to climb out of poverty, hopelessness and despair. “Violence and hatred are not going to do it,” he says.
Addressing current issues is important, but so are the everyday things that make life worth living. “Those are the types of things that compel me to write,” Smith says.
Smith wants his poems to be uplifting and thought provoking. “I want to make minds ponder,” he says. “I also am saying I’m not ashamed of being creative, I’m not ashamed of being me.
“All I want to do is be the voice of the people,” Smith says. “When you hear me, you hear the voice of Savannah, the humanity of Savannah.
“It’s good to give hope, especially to the youth,” he says. “There is a lack of role models, and so many of their role models are the opposite of good.”
Poetry and spoken word have both increased in popularity. “It offers the community an opportunity to come and hear something different,” he says.
“One of the poems will capture your ear,” Smith says. “You’re not hearing it from some fool on the radio.”
Smith has presented his poetry several times at The Sentient Bean and other local venues. They provide an intimate and comfortable setting for listeners.
“You don’t have to be in a club or a large venue,” Smith says. “You don’t have to dress in a fancy way.
“People are searching for authenticity,” he says. “Go to poetry and spoken word venues and you will find it. It’s also happening at Savannah Tech, Armstrong, Savannah State, even Georgia Southern. It’s spreading.”
Although he loves writing, Smith majored in computers and information technology at SSU and was graduated in 2005. “I have a passion with computers,” he says.
“The technology changes every day,” Smith says. “I’m passionate with technology and can resolve technical issues.”
But a year after graduation, even after an internship with the City of Savannah, Smith is still looking for a job in his chosen field. “Each time, I get rejected,” he says.
Part of the problem is that to find a good job in computers, you often have to relocate, Smith says. “I want to stay here,” he says.
“Right now, I’m a Floor Care Technician at Memorial Health,” Smith says. “You might as well call me a janitor.”
Smith works in the operating room, where stress is high. He not only has come to accept his job, but to relish it.
“At the time, I didn’t understand it, but now I do,” Smith says. “I’m able to help keep people’s spirits up and give them inspiration. Poetry is good for them.
“As I search for my dream job, I’m also publishing my poetry,” he says. “Consider me a paperboy,” Smith says. “I come to your neighborhood with articles of good news. I come back to your neighborhood the next day and throw more good news at your door."