Cambridge to imprint more sidewalk poetry this fall

A poem imprinted on a Cambridge sidewalk. Several new poems will be added this fall.
Greg Cook
A poem imprinted on a Cambridge sidewalk. Several new poems will be added this fall.

In the fall, a fresh batch of poems will accompany the turning leaves and crisp air in Cambridge. Eleven poems will be imprinted onto new sidewalks under the feet of passing pedestrians. Five winners were selected as part of the city’s fourth annual Sidewalk Poetry Contest to decorate city pathways. Judges sifted through 139 entries from Cantabrigians ages 3 to 86. Each piece resonated, tugging on a range of emotions.

Some were whimsical, while others offered more serious commentary.

“It’s just something people stumble upon. It’s very surprising, and it can add little moments of joy to somebody’s day,” said Hilary Zelson, public art administrator with the Cambridge Arts Council. “Or something that’s wondrous or meaningful.”


The youngest poets submitted works about butterflies and siblings:

Get The Weekender in your inbox:
The Globe's top picks for what to see and do each weekend, in Boston and beyond.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

Butterflies fly in

Butterflies make me happy

Butterflies fly out

—Phoebe, 4


Bro eats so so much

Bro doesn’t like tomatoes

He plays with his trucks

—Haven, 3

The more experienced poets waxed about their lives and the nature of writing:


George was the love of my life

I was so proud to be his wife

We were together 61 Years

Shared a lot of laughter

Shed a few tears

Raised 9 children as best we could

They turned out well

Like we knew they would...

Thank you GOD ...for all the good

—Josephine Vendetti, 86

In Cambridge, Fair City, To be walked on

Be under-foot

A Poem, embedded in cement

Can not be more

Than 10 lines

2-5-0 characters in all.

The Poet, stifled in ambition

Silenced thus into submission,

She heeds the City’s call.

—Alida J. O’Loughlin, 87

The winning poems reflect on hibernating mice and voles, fugitives on a frigid night, scullers on the river, the music of birds, and memories stirred by passing an old lover’s address.

The selection committee consisted of three past Cambridge Poets Populist, a student from Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, and representatives from Cambridge Public Works, Cambridge Public Library, and Cambridge Arts. There are six poems from last year’s contest, which are also expected to be installed this year. Zelson said they’re considering the locations depending on the content of the poem as well as where sidewalks need to be replaced.

The poems allow for a bit of magic and serendipity to interrupt daily routines.

“Some of the poets who participated are well-known poets with lots of experience and training in writing, and some of the poets who were selected may be first time writers,” Zelson said. “We don’t have to put up signs explaining how you’re supposed to feel when you read it.”



Imagine them: between the frost heaves

and the cold’s blunt edge, they tunnel

in the lion-colored hay, making homes.

Curves in the snow-crust suggest

their nests: warm and full of grain.

Mice and voles survive the winter

by knowing it is temporary.

—Julia Mix Barrington, 27

9 Below

We didn’t want to go to a shelter.

They would have parted us

men from women.

Caught in unforgiving ice,

we found an unlocked car to save us.

Even then, we knew we would not

survive the night.

By chance, we found an open hallway.

It was heated. Together we slept.

—Linda Larson, 70

Spring, and

fresh out of ice

the river is ribbed

this yellow day

by scullers’ oars

dipping steady

as breath—row!

row! ready

at the catch! —

they bury the blade

revel in its wake

—Mary Buchinger, 55

Haiku Blues

I lay my horn down

The singing bird near my door

Plays a better blues

—Rohan Nijhawan, 27

On Passing an Old Lover’s Address

Strange, all I know about you now

is that you opened the window

to let in this fine day.

—Susan Sklan, 68



The late-afternoon light

Coats the porches with promises.

Home is just a few more footsteps.

Sidewalk, letterbox, key in lock.

This is the place I learned to love

The soft sunsets, the passage of time.

—Alisa White, 23

The Brush

Outside on a school trip, the game

was called, “Survival”. I was a raccoon.

You were some kind of carnivore. We

hid together in a thicket, not playing.

You brushed a raindrop off my nose.

I’d waited my whole omnivore life,

for that gentle gesture.

—Erin M. Hasley, 44

Power in a Pen

I am victory,

I am a champion of the quill!

I have a dozen honest notebooks

to attest to my great skill.

And the truth is here,

as it’s always been:

this little girl

knows the power in a pen.

—Grace Valaskovic, 14

Edge and Center

living on the edge

has allowed you

to show me

what living at the center

is all about

—Melinda Koyanis, 66


There’s a peculiar sadness to infinity.

Two parallel lines, forever side by side

yet forever apart -

The space between them infinitesimal

yet infinite.

Two lines intersect, never to meet again

yet I find you, impossibly,

at another crossroads -

The most variable constant

there ever was.

—Sarah McGee, 22

Correction: Because of incorrect information provided to the Globe, an earlier version of this story included the wrong number of poems expected to be imprinted on Cambridge sidewalks. There will be 11 poems imprinted this year. The Globe regrets the error.

Cristela Guerra can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @CristelaGuerra.