Literary Artistry

June 29, 2023

Story by Nina Greenplate
Photography by Sasha Sweeney

Think of Hilton Head’s Poetry Trail as an artistic treasure hunt.

It’s a clever search and discovery for local poetry talent and select visual artistry, amidst an island landscape.

Award-winning poet and island resident Elizabeth Robin, in partnership with Island Writers’ Network and the Office of Cultural Affairs, has curated a poetic lineup that gives the community a new way to experience the island.

“This is something I wanted to bring to people in different ways, to help them see how poetry can be enjoyed,” she says of the initiative that launched this spring. “I am hoping they find poems and poets along the trail that they like.”

Where to start?
First, find the map on Hilton Head Poetry Trail’s Facebook page and begin at any of the easy-to-find numbered sites.

A plaque will greet you with the words, “Pause for a moment: Enjoy a poem; meet a poet.”

There will be two printed QR codes: one with the poem plus bonus information about that poet, if available. The other code allows visitors to comment on the trail’s Facebook page about the poem, the art, or the business visited along the way.

Simply scan both to enjoy and learn. There are currently 18 stops, with six more in progress (as of early June). Several will be found alongside interesting sculptures, while others are placed at island restaurants and businesses.

Robin’s vision required some technical expertise and Bill Schmitt was a smart choice. An Arts Council of Hilton Head volunteer, and Island Writers’ Network member, Schmitt has been a friend to the community for many years.

He helped create the plaques and QR coding system for the trail, and through the Office of Cultural Affairs, he can track “traffic” through each site encounter. The Trail is currently averaging 40 “hits” per day.

Each poem is harmoniously matched with its appointed location. An example is Elizabeth Abrams as the poet at the Sound Waves chimes sculpture (No. 3 on the Trail), with her poem, “Percussive Tides.”

Barry Dickson is the poet at the Jessamine sculpture (No. 13 on the Trail), where you’ll find an audio version of his poem, “At Tunkhannock Meadow.”

Robin makes a literary appearance on the Poetry Trail with “Harmonia” at Picture This Gallery (No. 5 on the Trail), and “Mislaid Glory” at the Poppies sculpture in Veterans Memorial Park (No. 11 on the Trail).

In 2021 Robin won the Carrie McCray Nickens Fellowship from the South Carolina Writers Association, and the John Edward Johnson Prize from The South Carolina Poetry Society. She has authored three books, including her most recent, “To My Dreamcatcher” which is her first full-length poetry collection.

“Making poetry (available to the) public really is a ‘win-win’ for everyone,” says Robin. “It gives poets the opportunity to have a new audience, and that audience can learn more about them.”

She hopes the community will recognize that poetry is very accessible.

“It’s something I wanted to bring to people in different ways to help people see that it can be enjoyed,” she said.