The goal of the Cambridge Arts Poetry Programs is to create opportunities for the Cambridge community to engage with and promote poetry from diverse backgrounds and styles.
Cambridge Arts and the City of Cambridge launched the Poetry Ambassadors Program in 2016 as an exciting opportunity for poets to engage with the community. Rather than a single “figurehead” position for poetry in Cambridge, Poetry Ambassadors were engaged to develop programs highlighting the rich diversity of literary arts happening in the City. Programs in 2016 and 2017 included an intergenerational open mic night focused on the theme “Roots,” poetry workshops pairing upcoming and established poets, and an evening of readings of poetry related to the theme of parenthood by prominent Cambridge poets. All programs featured 2-3 poets in addition to the organizing poet. Visit our Poetry Ambassador webpage to learn more about the Poetry Ambassadors.
In 2015 the City of Cambridge launched the first annual Sidewalk Poetry Contest and has continued yearly since. Every March, residents of any age are invited to submit poetry for the chance to get their words stamped in concrete as part of the sidewalk repair program. The poetry submissions must be a maximum of 10 lines, 40 characters per line including spaces, and 250 characters overall including spaces and punctuation. Each year an average of 150 poems are submitted from people ages 3-95. Entries are reviewed anonymously by a selection committee composed of past Cambridge Poets Populists, students from Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, and representatives from Cambridge Public Works, Cambridge Public Library, and Cambridge Arts. Five winners are selected each year and stamped throughout City. Additionally, every year the winning poets are invited to read at the Poetry Tent at the annual Cambridge Arts River Festival. Visit our Sidewalk Poetry webpage to learn more about the program and how to apply.
The Poet Populist program celebrated the City's close relationship with poetry by naming an individual to act as "literary ambassador" representing poetry to the city and the city to poetry. The Poet Populist Program was first proposed to Jason Weeks, Executive Director of the Cambridge Arts Council, by City Councilor Brian Murphy in 2007 and was officially established and launched in the same year. The project was modeled in part on Seattle Washington's Poet Populist project, which has been in place since 1999, and differs from other cities’ Poet Laureate programs in that the poet is not appointed by the City but rather voted on by the community. Visit our Poet Populist webpage to learn more about the Cambridge poets who served as Poet Populists.