Friday, May 24, 2024

Molly Lynn Watt’s “Jazz Riff” was among five winning poems from the Sidewalk Poetry Contest held in 2016. (Photo: Cambridge Arts)

Fifteen squares of sidewalk citywide have already been stamped with the short works of Cambridge poets, and more indelible words will be selected between Tuesday and March 20 in the city’s fourth annual Sidewalk Poetry Contest.

Winners and runners-up will be invited to read June 2 at the annual Cambridge Arts River Festival, then all but immortalized in the fall after review by a selection committee of 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 departments coordinating the program.

“It’s a wonderful feeling to know that the poem is going to be there for a long time and that people will see it,” said Carolyn Russell Stonewall, whose work was chosen in the first contest, in a video produced by 22-CityView.

Cambridge Department of Public Works employees impress a poem by Rose Breslin Blake into a sidewalk by the Hurley Street Park in East Cambridge in 2015.

The Cambridge program, inspired by a resident’s suggestion, takes St. Paul, Minn., as a model. St. Paul began its sidewalk poem program in 2008, itself inspired by artist Marcus Young (as artist-in-residence for the Department of Public Works!), and over the years added some 500 poems to city sidewalks. An example closer to home: the poetry stamped into bricks on the platform of the Davis Square T stop.

The inaugural year of the contest drew more than 300 submissions from residents ranging in age from 4 to 95 years, and Kelly Dunn, of the Department of Public Works, told 22-CityView that the program continued to be popular. “We receive emails and calls all throughout the year wanting to know when is the program going to start again, when can people submit poems?” she said.

Peter Payack, a former poet populist, said the appeal of the program was obvious.

“The idea is to put poetry where people can access it – you don’t have to go into a poetry reading that might be intimidating, you don’t have to go to the library and get a book,” Payack said. “You can just walk down the street and casually, at your feet, is a poem.”

For information and to submit a poem, visit