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Cambridge selects winners of ‘Sidewalk Poetry’ contest

Workers imprinted a test poem.Cambridge Arts Council

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.

Benjamin Grimm

I could not forget you if I tried.

I have tried.

Ty Muto

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.

Elissa Warner

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

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