2023 Sidewalk Poetry

5 Winning Poems To Be Imprinted In Cambridge Sidewalks. Cambridge Arts. Pictured clockwise from top center: Mary Baine Campbell, Christine Del Castillo, Missy Hartvigsen, Jan Shafer, Allen Perez-Somarribas
Pictured clockwise from top center: Mary Baine Campbell, Christine Del Castillo, Missy Hartvigsen, Jan Shafer, Allen Perez-Somarribas.

5 Winning Poems To Be Imprinted In Cambridge Sidewalks

May 1, 2023: New poetry will be coming to Cambridge neighborhoods as five winning poems will be imprinted in sidewalks across the city as part of the City of Cambridge’s annual Sidewalk Poetry Contest. The chosen poems describe the thriving recovery of a mulberry tree, an immigrant finding a home in Cambridge, the delight of eating an orange, waiting with the Buddha, and reading a poem imprinted into a sidewalk.

The winners, who will each receive a $250 prize, are:
Mary Baine Campbell
Christine Del Castillo
Missy Hartvigsen
Allen Perez-Somarribas
Jan Shafer

Launched in 2015, Sidewalk Poetry 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.

The 2023 Sidewalk Poetry winners were chosen in March from 336 entries. Entries were reviewed without identifying information by a selection committee, assembled with the help of a public call for jurors—the second time we’ve issued a public call for jurors for this program. Its members included Lillian Hsu and Hilary Zelson of Cambridge Arts; Drew Griffin of the Cambridge Public Library; Jen Letourneau of the Cambridge Department of Public Works; residents Jesse Lowe, Sean Northern, Aparna Paul and Cecilia Tan; and residents and Poet Populists Jean-Dany Joachim and Peter Payack.

2023 Sidewalk Poetry Contest Winners

Mary Baine Campbell

The other day on the street
I saw someone who looked
Like you: pausing, gazing
Down at the sidewalk
At a poem, moving
Their lips.

mulberry season
Christine Del Castillo

in the plague year i beheld
the mulberry tree — once pruned
to anonymity, now thriving, weed-like,
in the absence of any human care.
how i envied its generosity
while needing nothing at all.
just the sun’s work, the miracle
of sugaring, the lavish,
unfettered ripening.

Citrus Blossom
Missy Hartvigsen

As a little girl, I wrote poems about a
lunchbox orange, jubilant with seeds.
As a teenager, I wrote about a
sun-warmed peel, lips sticky with juice.
As a woman I write about sharing
snacks. Savoring one soft sliver,
flavor like laughter on my tongue.

Humano entre humanos
Allen Perez -Somarribas

Vine del desierto, del muro,
y de la frontera.
¡Y sobreviví!
Justicia denegada en mi tierra.
¡Pero ahora pertenezco al presente!
¡Manantiales de esperanza,
y del abrazo fraterno!
En mayo saludo las flores de Cambridge,
mi hogar, saludo a mis vecinos,
extranjero no, solo humano entre humanos.


Human among humans
I came from the desert, the wall,
and from the border.
And I survived!
In my land, justice denied.
But now I belong to this present.
Wellsprings of hope,
and fraternal embrace.
In May I greet the flowers of Cambridge,
my home. I happily wave to my neighbors:
not an alien, just human among humans.

Drinking Tea With Buddha
Jan Shafer

Years ago, Buddha invited me to tea.
“Mine is too hot,” I told him.
“Just let it sit,” he said.
Then he stood, peering up at the sky.
I was thirsty, but he mused,
“Three things cannot be long hidden:
The sun, the moon, and the truth.”
I wanted my tea. “It’s hard to wait.”
“That’s the truth,” he whispered
as twilight began to cool the night.