2018 Sidewalk Poetry Contest

Five poems from the City of Cambridge’s fourth annual Sidewalk Poetry Contest have been chosen to be imprinted into the fresh concrete of new sidewalks around the city beginning in fall 2018. These winning poems speak about hibernating mice and voles, fugitives on a frigid night, scullers on the river, the music of birds, and memories stirred by passing an old lover’s address.

Julia Mix Barrington, 27
Mary  Buchinger, 55
Linda Larson, 70
Rohan Nijhawan, 27
Susan Sklan, 68

Erin M. Hasley, 44
Melinda Koyanis, 66
Sarah McGee, 22
Grace Valaskovic, 14
Alisa White, 23

The five winners—plus five runners-up—were chosen in April from 139 entries contributed this spring by Cambridge residents, ranging in age from 3 to 86, and hailing from all the neighborhoods of the community. Read these 10 poems here. All 10 poets have been invited to read at the Poetry Tent at the annual Cambridge Arts River Festival on June 2, 2018. 

Entries were reviewed by a selection committee composed of three past Cambridge Poets Populist, a student from Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, and representatives from Cambridge Public Works, Cambridge Public Library, and Cambridge Arts.

The Sidewalk Poetry Contest is a collaborative project of the Department of Public Works, Cambridge Arts, and the Cambridge Public Library.

Here are the winners of the fourth annual Sidewalk Poetry Contest whose poems are scheduled to be imprinted in the concrete of City sidewalks in 2018!

Julia Mix Barrington, age 27

Imagine them: between the frost heaves
and the cold's blunt edge, they tunnel
in the lion-colored hay, making homes.
Curves in the snow-crust suggest
their nests: warm and full of grain.
Mice and voles survive the winter
by knowing it is temporary.


9 Below
Linda Larson, age 70

We didn't want to go to a shelter.
They would have parted us
men from women.
Caught in unforgiving ice,
we found an unlocked car to save us.
Even then, we knew we would not
survive the night.
By chance, we found an open hallway.
It was heated.  Together we slept.


Spring, and  
Mary Buchinger, age 55

     fresh out of ice
the river is ribbed
this yellow day
by scullers’ oars
dipping steady
as breath—row!
row! ready
at the catch! —
they bury the blade
revel in its wake


Haiku Blues
Rohan Nijhawan, age 27

I lay my horn down
The singing bird near my door
Plays a better blues


On Passing an Old Lover’s Address
Susan Sklan, age 68

Strange, all I know about you now
is that you opened the window
to let in this fine day.


Alisa White, age 23

The late-afternoon light
Coats the porches with promises.

Home is just a few more footsteps.
Sidewalk, letterbox, key in lock.

This is the place I learned to love
The soft sunsets, the passage of time.


The Brush
Erin M. Hasley, age 44

Outside on a school trip, the game
was called, “Survival”.  I was a raccoon.
You were some kind of carnivore. We
hid together in a thicket, not playing.
You brushed a raindrop off my nose.
I’d waited my whole omnivore life,
for that gentle gesture.


Power in a Pen
Grace Valaskovic, age 14

I am victory,
I am a champion of the quill!
I have a dozen honest notebooks
to attest to my great skill.
And the truth is here,
as it's always been:
this little girl
knows the power in a pen.


Edge and Center
Melinda Koyanis, age 66

living on the edge
has allowed you
to show me
what living at the center
is all about


Sarah McGee, age 22

There’s a peculiar sadness to infinity.
Two parallel lines, forever side by side
yet forever apart -
The space between them infinitesimal
yet infinite.
Two lines intersect, never to meet again
yet I find you, impossibly,
at another crossroads -
The most variable constant
there ever was.