Cambridge officials received hundreds of submissions from residents hoping to make their mark as literary legends through the city’s first-ever “Sidewalk Poetry” contest this spring.
In the end, only five scribes emerged victorious.
In March, the city put out a call for poets to participate in the project. Winners were promised a permanent display space for their musings — the poems would be imprinted in the freshly poured concrete as Department of Public Works crews replaced sidewalk slabs cracked or damaged during the winter.
The response was great, said Molly Akin, the Cambridge Arts Council’s marketing director. More than 300 submissions flooded in from writers ranging in age from 4 to 95, according to organizers.
A special committee that included workers from the DPW, representatives from the local libraries, members of the Arts Council, and Cambridge’s former Poet Populists helped select the finalists.
Each of the winning poems will have one display, in locations that will be determined as DPW crews repair sidewalks this summer. Special tools will be used to imprint the poems.
Akin said workers this week did a trial run on Calendar Street, with a poem that wasn’t among the winners.
“It was a test to make sure they had the right tools and technology to stamp the winners this summer,” she said.
The result, she said, came out beautifully.
Finalists will get more than just a spot on the sidewalk. In June, the selected poets will read their work during the annual River Festival, beneath the Poetry Tent. Six semifinalists whose work won’t be etched in cement were also selected to share their poems at the event, Akin said.
The Sidewalk Poetry contest was inspired by a similar initiative in St. Paul that began in 2008. The city now has more than 450 poems imprinted on sidewalks.
Cambridge’s efforts are more modest, but given the success of the contest this spring, there are tentative plans to seek submissions again next year.
Below are the names of the winners, and their poems:
Rose Breslin Blake
Children, look up
Cherish those clouds
Ride grey ponies over their hills
Feed the shiny fish
Boo the big bear
Chase the gloomy giant
Giggle with the geese
Sing with the lambs
Cherish those clouds; they cherish you
Rest on their pillows.
I could not forget you if I tried.
I have tried.
Your blue-green glances
My heart skips double dutch beats
Caught in your rhythm
Carolyn Russell Stonewell
Sun takes a bite of
mango as it sets.
Its last rays
run down my cheek.
A Mother’s Wish
Little boys, little treasures
Shine like lights from above
My son, my only one
My wish for you is that you wake
One day when you are old
And feel raindrops on your cheek
Tears of joy from my heart
For you to keep