Cambridge, Mass., launches sidewalk poetry program after record snows

Cambridge in February

Cambridge, Mass., as it repairs sidewalks damaged from record snows, plans to fill the pavement with poetry.

(Maddie Meyer / Getty Images)

Anyone who’s tried to clear snow off a sidewalk knows how destructive winter can be to them. There are frost heaves, piles of salt, bulldozers scraping by and there you are, battering away at it with a shovel.

As Boston warms up after record winter snows, repairs are being planned. And the burg of Cambridge is doing more than just making simple fixes: It will imprint its sidewalks with poetry.

“I think that one of the goals of Cambridge is to have this sense of playfulness and the sense of art being important,” Julie Barry, director of community arts for the Cambridge Arts Council, told the Boston Globe. “Just being able to implement these little jewels throughout the city is a fun way to inspire that playfulness.”

The Sidewalk Poetry Program is a joint effort of the Cambridge Arts Council, its public library, and the Department of Public Works. It was inspired by a similar program in St. Paul that launched in 2008.


Cambridge residents (and Cambridge residents only) are encouraged to submit their poems for consideration. The sidewalk poems have to be short enough to fit on a square of sidewalk. Officially, that’s up to 10 lines, with a maximum of 40 characters per line including spaces -- with a total of no more than 250 characters, including titles, spaces and punctuation.

While short, that’s still longer than a tweet.

Organizers say that how we live now makes the sidewalk a perfect place for poetry: People are looking down because they’re reading their smartphones. 

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