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Cambridge offers poets chance to make their mark on sidewalks

People with a knack for verse will get an opportunity to cement their legacy in Cambridge this spring.

As crews from the Department of Public Works replace sidewalks damaged by the winter's historic snowfall, they will imprint poetry written by residents into the slabs, hoping to capture the attention of pedestrians.

Called the "Sidewalk Poetry" program, the project is a partnership between the DPW, staff from the Cambridge Arts Council, and the public library.

The city is calling on locals to submit up to two poems for consideration.

"I think that one of the goals of Cambridge is to have this sense of playfulness and the sense of art being important," said Julie Barry, director of community arts for the Arts Council. "Just being able to implement these little jewels throughout the city is a fun way to inspire that playfulness."


Barry said because most people are looking down at their smartphones as they walk, the poems will have high visibility.

A similar project in St. Paul , which began in 2008, inspired Cambridge to adopt the concept. St. Paul now has more than 450 poems imprinted on the city's sidewalks.

A sidwalk poem in St. Paul.Public Art St. Paul

In 2013, a Cambridge resident approached the DPW and asked whether poets could inscribe their writing in freshly poured concrete.

After some careful consideration, and conversations with both the Arts Council and workers from the city's library branches, officials devised their program.

The entry deadline for poetry submissions is April 12.

A panel of judges will then anonymously review the poems, before five winners are picked.

The winning poems will be imprinted into the sidewalks as crews go about pouring concrete around the city.

Cambridge officials are working with fabricators from St. Paul to create the presses that imprint the poems.

St. Paul keeps a public database of all of the locations where poems can be found.


If successful, Cambridge officials hope to expand on their own poetry project in a similar fashion.

"We want people to really stop and smell the roses, as it were . . . and have a little bit of random art in their daily lives," she said.

Steve Annear can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.