To mark April as National Poetry Month, Lowcountry residents and tourists will be introduced to a new Poetry Trail on Hilton Head Island. 

It is a collaboration between the Town of Hilton Head Island’s Office of Cultural Affairs and the Island Writers Network (IWN). The Poetry Trail is a way to celebrate poetry and engage people in literary activity.

Elizabeth Robin of Hilton Head, a published poet, spearheaded the initiative through the Island Writers Network. She was inspired by O Miami in Florida, where the organization brings poetry into public spaces to broadcast poetry, engage people in a literary community, and create intimate experiences that encourage cultural exchange. 

For example, Robin said, they hid poems inside conch shells and put them all over town, they stuck poetry on gas pumps and painted poems on rooftops. They hung poetry on buses, and even used rain paint to showcase poetry on sidewalks.  

“The question, ‘how can we do something here?’ kept percolating in my head,” Robin said. 

So, she met with Natalie Harvey, director of the Office of Cultural Affairs.

“Our office can pull artists and projects together for public art,” Harvey said. “This is exciting. We have a great arts and culture environment and the Island Writers Network took the ball and ran with it.”

The Poetry Trail is a marriage of technology, creative writing, public art and businesses, and will showcase a new way to experience this corner of paradise: through the eyes of local poets.

Bill Schmidt, a volunteer with the Arts Council of Hilton Head, is the technology guru and idea man on the project. He came up with the idea of using interactive technology in the form of QR codes, and developed the logo, the sign design, and the Facebook page. 

Fifteen sculptures and nearly 10 businesses await their signs to kick off National Poetry Month. Sites include seven signs in and around Shelter Cove and the Veterans Memorial area, Red Fish, Tio’s, the Beach House, Sea Turtle Marketplace, Rollers Wine & Spirits, and more.

Along the trail are easy-to-find signs containing two QR codes. One code takes you to a poem written by a local poet and a short bio. The other code takes you to the Facebook page, where users can find the entire route, plan a full tour, comment on the poem, the art, or the business visited along the way. Every time a sign is scanned, the Harvey’s office will track the traffic and key data that helps direct new projects.

“It’s a clever way to bring poems to the public and make it alive,” Robin said. “Poetry speaks to us in an immediate way. The signs will showcase art in real time. The poems will change regularly. And they are not one-hit wonders. There is lots of talent. Poetry is open to very individual interpretation, and it will be appropriate for all ages and all people.”

 “The Poetry Trail adds a new layer to enjoyment of our sculptures,” Harvey said. “I’m excited because visitors and residents will experience it as they traverse around the island’s cultural sites. The signs can be updated very easily, poems can be added or changed, and that’s better than a static sign.”

Harvey said that information will be posted on, and in the cultural affairs newsletter.

Harvey oversees the sculptures approved for the project and the affixing of signs near the public art installations. Robin recruited the poets and businesses that are participating, and the Island Writers Network has committed to paying monthly costs of the QR codes.

The public is invited to attend a Poetry Trail launch reading with live readings by the poets from 4 to 6 p.m. April 19 won the deck at Rollers Wine & Spirits, 9 Palmetto Bay.  

National Poetry Month, the largest literary celebration in the world, was created to encourage the artistry and legacy of poets and to encourage the reading and teaching of poetry. 

It was launched by the Academy of American Poets in 1996, and in a formal declaration, President Bill Clinton said: “National Poetry Month offers us a welcome opportunity to celebrate not only the unsurpassed body of literature produced by our poets in the past, but also the vitality and diversity of voices reflected in the works of today’s American poetry….Their creativity and wealth of language enrich our culture and inspire a new generation of Americans to learn the power of reading and writing at its best.”

Edwina Hoyle is a freelance writer in Bluffton.