ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — The city of St. Paul is looking for poets.
Monday marks the kickoff of the 8th Annual Sidewalk Poetry contest. The city partners with Public Art Saint Paul to host the contest. The winning entries are then stamped into wet cement as maintenance crews make repairs to sidewalks each spring.
The artist who oversees the project, Marcus Young of Public Art St. Paul, showed us some of the past winners.
“This is a poem by Diego Vazquez Jr., and it says ‘The sky fell on my toes and I was a fast runner.’ How often do you get to see text like that in public now?’ he said. “The text you usually see is ‘Buy one, get one free,’ or, ‘No guns permitted on these premises.”
More than 700 poems are stamped into St. Paul neighborhood sidewalks. He described what the contest judges want.
“They are looking for strong, short, concise, honest, well-written poems,” he said. “It’s hard to be concise, to the point, but not be boring.”
Melinda Lockard walks three miles a day through her neighborhood. She also teaches poetry classes at St. Catherine University.
“Each little poem is a gem inside the human psyche. That’s what I like about it,” she said, while out for a walk with her dog. “When you look down, you can’t help but read a phrase or two. It just makes you want to hang out with more words.”
One of the sidewalk repair workers, Todd Olson of Standard Sidewalk, described the work involved in embedding poetry.
“You kinda gotta time it right, cause it can’t be real hard, and you want the letters to set in real good,” he said.
Young pointed out one of his favorite poems in the Mac-Groveland neighborhood. It illustrates the different way men and women sometimes communicate.
“This poem doesn’t get old. It’s timeless,” he said. “You know people who are like that, both men and women. You know people relate that way. It speaks right to your heart and experience.”
The deadline for entries is Oct. 16, and all entries must be submitted online. Up to five winners will be chosen, and there’s a $100 prize. The winning poems will be stamped into a sidewalk next spring. The entry fee is $3.
Winners will be announced on Nov. 17 at an event at St. Paul’s University Club. The poems can be about anything, but the they can’t exceed 250 characters or 10 lines, and the author must live in St. Paul.
Some years they’ve received as many as 2-thousand original poems for the judges to review.