Launched in 2015, the City of Cambridge's Sidewalk Poetry program invites Cambridge residents of all ages to submit their poetry for a chance to get their words stamped in concrete as part of the City’s sidewalk repair program. At the core of the Sidewalk Poetry program is access and opportunity—providing opportunities for more people to freely experience poetry and more writers to share their work. Find poems throughout the city via our Sidewalk Poetry Map
. The Sidewalk Poetry Contest is a collaborative project of the Department of Public Works, Cambridge Arts, and the Cambridge Public Library.
Help Pick Poems To Be Imprinted In Cambridge Sidewalks
Would you like to help select poetry to be imprinted in sidewalks throughout Cambridge? The City of Cambridge seeks people to participate in the selection process for its 2023 Sidewalk Poetry Contest
. If you are interested in applying, please fill out the online form by Feb. 6
SELECTION COMMITTEE REQUIREMENTS:
Selection Committee members will be expected to read approximately 200 to 250 poems submitted to the contest. Selection Committee members will review the poems on their own time and select five top choices. Then the selection committee will convene for one 3-hour virtual meeting to discuss the top choices and select five winners. Each Selection Committee member will be paid a $250 honorarium.
Selection Committee members will review all poems submitted to the contest without any attached identifying information of the person who submitted the poem. The Sidewalk Poetry Contest receives poems from Cambridge residents of all ages. If you are planning to submit a poem to the 2023 Sidewalk Poetry Contest, you should not apply to be on the selection committee. However, you are welcome to apply, and if you are not selected, you can submit a poem.
The Cambridge Sidewalk Poetry Program is an ever-popular program that each year selects five winners from the pool of submissions. Winning poems will be stamped in sidewalks around the city and posted to the Cambridge Arts website. For more information and examples of past contest winners, visit the website and Sidewalk Poetry Program story map: cambridgema.gov/sidewalkpoetry
Apply by Feb. 6
. We will contact you if you are selected.
Please contact us with any questions at 617-349-4388 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The City of Cambridge's 2023 Sidewalk Poetry Contest is expected to begin in February 2023.
Winning poems from the 2022 contest confront anti-immigrant bigotry, mull the surprises of aging, celebrate writers’ voices and creativity, observe life along our sidewalks, and call for an open-hearted tenderness that includes “the man living in the tent / On the concrete between the buildings.” Read them at https://www.cambridgema.gov/arts/Programs/sidewalkpoetry/2022sidewalkpoetry
The 2022 Sidewalk Poetry winners—plus five runners-up—were chosen in March from 252 entries contributed this spring by Cambridge residents from across the city. Entries were reviewed by a selection committee, assembled with the help of a public call for jurors—the first time we’ve issued a public call for jurors for this program. Its members included Betsy Groban, Madeleine Holzer, Jean Dany Joachim, Daisy Lu, Peter Payack, Dhonyale Jones of 22-CityView, Jen Letourneau of the Department of Public Works, Drew Griffin from the Cambridge Public Library, and Hilary Zelson and Lillian Hsu from Cambridge Arts.
Find Sidewalk Poetry with our Online Map
Use one online map to find Sidewalk Poetry all over Cambridge.
About Sidewalk Poetry
Sidewalk Poetry combines a basic infrastructure repair program with the imbedded poetic creations of residents, building a collective creation and sustainable program generated by a collaboration of citizens with government. The program launched in 2015 with the first annual Sidewalk Poetry Contest.
Each year, 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. 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 to 95. Entries are then reviewed anonymously by a selection committee. Five winners are selected each year and stamped throughout the City.
To date, more than two dozen poems have been stamped in Cambridge sidewalks. Sidewalk Poetry provides opportunities for meaningful cultural exchange, adds a sense of playfulness to the City, and makes poetry more visible by bringing it into public spaces. Sidewalk Poetry is a collaborative project of the Department of Public Works, Cambridge Arts, and the Cambridge Public Library.
The program originated when a resident called our Department of Public Works (DPW) asking if we could do a sidewalk poetry program after she heard about one in St. Paul, MN. DPW contacted the City’s Director of Public Art, Lillian Hsu, who had seen the project in person and suggested an internal meeting to discuss feasibility.
Agreeing that a Sidewalk Poetry Program would be great for Cambridge, representatives from DPW, Cambridge Arts, and the Cambridge Public Library (CPL) met to plan the inaugural Sidewalk Poetry program. The team included the resident who brought the request to the City. In April 2015 we launched the first City-wide poetry contest. We identified a fabricator for the stamps needed to imprint the poem into wet concrete. We had one stamp fabricated as a prototype and did a test, allowing us to witness the stamping process executed by the sidewalk contractor and understand the installation variables.
We used internal design and printing capability for posters and flyers and set up a collaborative outreach plan and formed a selection committee which conducted a blind review of 300 poems submitted by residents between the ages of 4 and 95. The Committee convened and selected 5 winners and 5 runners-up. Cambridge Arts and DPW worked together to identify the first 5 sidewalk locations.
To celebrate five years of Sidewalk Poetry, Cambridge Arts worked with designer Rick Rawlins and his Community Design students at Lesley Art and Design to print entries from each year across a giant scrim that wraps a construction site around Lafayette Square and Massachusetts Avenue in Central Square in 2019.
Why we love Sidewalk Poetry!
In many municipal governments cross-departmental projects that are truly collaborative are unusual. It is also unusual to have departments other than an arts or cultural department engaging actively in building, planning, and installing art projects. Additionally, there are not many projects that engage creative participation of citizens of all ages and backgrounds and locate those contributions in a streetscape for anyone to enjoy. To visitors, the sidewalk poems are voices of citizens of a specific locale - a diversity of privately composed artistic expressions in a most public urban space. The program also has the potential to grow into a significant anthology of community poetry enlivening sidewalks, throughout all neighborhoods, to be enjoyed any day of the year.
Creating good public spaces that engage citizens in meaningful and positive ways and that offer opportunities for social and cultural exchange is our ongoing mission and a complex task. Sidewalk Poetry contributes to the international movement to build more playful cities. More and more people are moving into cities; open space is shrinking. The arts are often a key contributor to the unique enhancements that prompt delight, inspiration, and well-being among citizens passing through dense public space.
While poetry has been an important part of civilization throughout history, it is relegated to a minor area of our cultural attention and struggles to reach a wide audience. In conversation with the individuals whose poems were chosen it became clear that writing poetry plays a role in many people’s lives but is not often visible in the public realm. Sidewalk Poetry changes that.
Application for the 2019 Sidewalk Poetry Contest will be available in early 2019! Click here for more information on how to apply.