Cheyenne Walsh

(Rock Hill, S.C.) -– A new public art project will soon bring poetry to downtown Rock Hill.

The Women’s Art Initiative recently received a small grant from the Arts Council of York County to line the downtown sidewalks with haiku poems. The poems will be in place by late March, just in time for National Poetry Month in April.

Haiku is a form of Japanese poetry comprised of 17 syllables in three lines, including five syllables in the first and third lines and seven syllables in the second.

“The Women’s Art Initiative wanted to do this poetry project so that in April, which is poetry month, we would have something in the community to call attention to it,” said Debra Heintz, executive director of the Arts Council.

Harriet Goode, a board member of the Women’s Art Initiative, said she got the idea for the project after receiving a poem from a friend.

“I started reading haiku poems and that was initiated by a friend of mine in Nebraska who is married to a Japanese woman,” said Goode. “He sent me a haiku poem in Japanese with the English translation and so that kind of got my wheels started.”

However, the group needed to secure funding for the project.

“We had almost enough to do it and we could have raised the rest of the money just in our membership, but we thought it would add a little credibility to have applied for and received a grant from the Arts Council and that brings the Arts Council closer to this particular project,” Goode said.

The Women’s Art Initiative has opened the haiku project to juniors and seniors in the Rock Hill School District as a way to get the community involved.

Students, working with their English teachers, have until Feb. 20 to submit their poetry to the Arts Council of York County office, where they will be judged by Goode and two other writers.

The ten best haikus will be selected and stenciled on the sidewalks along Main Street, from Fountain Park to Dave Lyle Boulevard.

Goode has also taken the project one step further by reaching out to local businesses to be a part of what she calls a “secret haiku.”

The participating businesses will have three to four haiku poems hidden throughout their establishments and patrons who find them will be given a small reward, such as a free drink or similar product.

The stencils of the haiku poems will be installed by March 25, just in time for the South Carolina Humanities Festival on March 28.