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Sidewalk Poetry

Sidewalk Poetry is a systems-based work that allows city residents to claim the sidewalks as their book pages. This project re-imagines Saint Paul’s annual sidewalk maintenance program with Public Works, as the department repairs 10 miles of sidewalk each year. We have stamped more than 1,200 poems from a collection that now includes 73 individual pieces all written by Saint Paul residents. Today, everyone in Saint Paul now lives within a 10-minute walk of a Sidewalk Poem. 

This art project began with previous Public Art Saint Paul City Artist Marcus Young in 2008 under the name “Everyday Poems for City Sidewalks,” and continues today with evolved stamping approaches, as well as poetry submission and review processes. Our 2019 Sidewalk Poetry competition was unique because it included poems in Dakota, Hmong, Somali, and Spanish for the first time in Sidewalk Poetry history. The poetry on our streets celebrates the remarkable cultures that make our City home and that makes our City strong. With this as a beginning, other languages may be added in years to come.

We are excited to expand our collection and install more public art in the Twin Cities. We ask you, our community, to join us in this project to democratize public art and make a donation to support this project. 

2021 Sidewalk Poetry Curators

Bao Phi is a Vietnamese American writer and a lifelong Minnesotan. His poems and essays are widely published in numerous publications including Screaming Monkeys and Spoken Word Revolution Redux. A short story of his, Revolution Shuffle, appeared in the anthology Octavia’s Brood: Stories from Social Justice Movements, AK Press, 2015, and an essay of his was included in the anthology A Good Time for the Truth, edited by Sun Yung Shin, Minnesota Historical Society Press. He is a poetry slam champion, a published poet, a children’s book author, a nonprofit arts administrator, and a father.











Sagirah Shahid is an African American Muslim poet and arts educator from Minneapolis, MN. She is a recipient of a mentor series award in poetry from the Loft Literary Center, a Minnesota Center for Book Arts mentorship award, and Twin Cities Media Alliance’s Our Space is Spoken For, a  public art and performance fellowship for Black, Indigenous and artists of color. In 2019 she was a writer-in-residence for Wisdom Ways, Unrestricted Interest, and 826 MSP. Sagirah’s poetry and prose have been published in Mizna, Paper Darts, Juked, Winter Tangerine, The Drinking Gourd, Puerto Del Sol, American Muslim Futures virtual exhibit, and A Moment of Silence an online anthology of 50+ Black Minnesotan voices responding during a historical moment of transformation. Sagirah’s debut collection of poetry “Surveillance of Joy” is forthcoming from Half Mystic Press in 2021.

2021 Sidewalk Poetry Panelists

Bao and Sagirah will be joined by a panelist of local professional poets, many of whom speak the one of languages accepted in Sidewalk Poetry 2021.

Marian Hassan is an empowering educator and children’s picture book author. Marian’s work is all about children, books, reading, writing, and talking. As an educator, Marian advises, mentors, and trains lots of folks about areas in early childhood education, family literacy, program development, evaluation, and coaching. Lately, she has been speaking to dual language families and teachers about the importance of the home language to the development of the second language. As a writer, her love of literature began at an early age listening to relatives tell Somali tales, a natural backdrop of the rich oral culture of her native Somalia. She is the editor of a recently published Anthology Crossroads: An Anthology of Resilience and Hope by Young Somali Writers; and the author of Bright Star Blue Sky and Dhegdheer: A Scary Somali Folktale. Marian earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature and Mass Communication from York University in Canada and has done graduate work in Elementary Education as well as a K-8 teacher licensure with a specialty in Language Arts at University of Saint Thomas.




Rubin Hardin is a poet who adores magical realism. They founded a literary journal dedicated to non-speaking and semi-speaking disabled artists called Explicit Literary Journal. They have work published in Rising Phoenix Review, What Are Birds, Runestone, Crab Fat Magazine, Voicemail Poems, Can’t Somebody Fix What Ails Me, Iris Literary Journal, and Snarl. Their favorite bird is a dragon.







Tou SaiK Lee, a spoken word poet, hip hop artist, teacher, and community organizer, based in Saint Paul. Tou SaiK and his brother, Vong, perform together as the dynamic hip hop duo called Delicious Venom. He has engaged in intergenerational collaboration, having performed many times with his grandmother, Youa Chang (now deceased), who performed the traditional art of kwv txhiaj (Hmong poetry chanting). They formed the duo called Fresh Traditions. In 2009, he received Intermedia Arts VERVE Spoken Word award. Lee was featured in the 2015 full-length, international hip hop documentary, We Rock Long Distance, by Justin Schell. This year, he will release his first Hmong language hip hop album, titled Ntiaj Teb Koom Tes, which translates to “Unified Worldwide.” Tou SaiK is writing a memoir about his collaboration with his grandmother to honor her passing, titled My Grandma Can Free Style. In 2016, Tou Saik was a Bush Foundation Leadership Fellow, using the fellowship to travel to Thailand to connect with his Hmong culture, stories, and song. Today, he uses the arts to encourage cultural identity and pride in youth in the Frogtown neighborhood.






Mark k. Tilsen is an Oglala Lakota Poet Educator from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. He comes from activist families long steeped in the struggle for liberation for all people and the long term survival of the Lakota Nation. At Standing Rock he stepped into the role of a direct action trainer and police liaison. Those stories have been compiled into a book of poems titled It Ain’t Over Until We’re Smoking Cigars on the Drillpad.During the pandemic Tilsen has worked with Camp Mniluzahan providing shelter for unhoused relatives in on Lakota land near Rapid City SD

Teresa Ortiz is a writer, spoken word poet and educator. An immigrant from Mexico in Minnesota, and a member of the Latinx Spoken Word Collective Palabristas. Teresa writes in English and Spanish to honor her ancestors and her loved ones, aiming to portray her identity, the land where she has lived and the lives that have touched her own. Teresa’s poems have been published in several chapbooks and literary journals and her short stories “El Rio” and “The Children’s Mountain” were published in the anthologies LAKE STREET STORIES (Flexible Press 2018) and HOME (Flexible Press 2019). Her book of testimonials of Maya women NEVER AGAIN A WORLD WITHOUT US: VOICES OF MAYA WOMEN IN CHIAPAS, MEXICO (EPICA 2001 has been used as a text in academic settings. As a spoken word artist, Teresa has performed in many venues throughout the Twin Cities, and participated in Festivals such as Festival de Calaveras, InMigration, Erotic Poetry Open Mic, Open Streets, and many others. She has facilitated poetry workshops for youth and adults and for over a decade she has been working in Adult Basic Education, educating generations of new immigrants to Minnesota.


Public Art Saint Paul

Saint Paul Almanac

Mayors Office

City of Saint Paul

City of Saint Paul’s Department Public Works

Public Art Saint Paul and Sidewalk Poetry are supported by the McKnight, Hardenbergh, and Boss Foundations, the John and Ruth Huss Fund, and the Minnesota State Arts Board through a legislative appropriation and from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund, made possible by the voters of Minnesota. The City of Saint Paul is a partner and supporter of Sidewalk Poetry.




About the Artist

Marcus Young

Marcus Young 楊墨 (b.1970, Hong Kong) was a City Artist with Public Art Saint Paul from 2006 to 2015, when he worked across City of Saint Paul departments to help shape public spaces, improve city systems, and deepen civic engagement. He is a behavioral and social practice artist making word not only for the public realm but for the concert stage and museums. As a City Artist, Young initiated the project, “Everyday Poems for City Sidewalk,” which transformed the city’s sidewalk maintenance program into a publishing entity for poetry. The project continues as “Sidewalk Poetry,” with an ever-expanding collection of poems, written by residents of Saint Paul. Now numbering at more than 1,000 poems, these works are found throughout the City of Saint Paul, providing moments to reflect, smile, puzzle, or delight to anyone walking, running, rolling, biking, or roller skating on St. Paul sidewalks. This project has achieved national recognition and has been emulated by towns and cities throughout the U.S.

Marcus has a BA in music from Carleton College and MFA in theater from the University of Minnesota. He is a Collaborating Director with Ananya Dance Theatre, and a recipient of awards from the McKnight Foundation, Bush Foundation, Jerome Foundation, Franklin Furnace, and New York Drama League.

SWP Contest 2021


Sidewalk Poetry is an ongoing, systems-based work of art and the vanguard expression of the pioneering idea of “City Art.” This project re-imagines Saint Paul’s annual sidewalk maintenance program as an ongoing publishing entity for a city-sized book of poetry. Sidewalk Poetry allows city residents to claim the sidewalks as their book pages by creating moments of contemplation and reflection through these printed poems.

In collaboration with the City of St. Paul, Public Art Saint Paul hosts a 2021 Sidewalk Poetry Contest this spring to offer residents a new opportunity to be published poets and add to our collection. Foster a poetic frame of mind! Submissions will be accepted from March 22 – May 2, 2021. (Read below for details of how to submit your work.)

Two highly accomplished poets—Bao Phi and Sagirah Shahid—are curators of the 2021 Poetry Contest. They will serve as ambassadors, getting the word out far and wide about this opportunity for St. Paul residents only. They also will serve as jurors of the submitted poems and have enlisted four other esteemed poets to serve on the jury:  Rubin Hardin, Tou Saik Lee, Mark Tissen, Marian Hassan.

In continuation of our 2019 program, we will accept poems in several languages: Dakota, Hmong, Somali, Spanish, and English. The poetry on our streets will honor and recognize the remarkable cultures that make our City home and that make our City strong. With this as a beginning, other languages may be added in years to come.

Sidewalk Poetry brilliantly piggybacks onto an unassuming yet essential City service—a $1 million program in our City’s Public Works Department that repairs 10 miles of sidewalk each year. Using this system, Sidewalk Poetry is able to reach all corners of the City. Today, everyone in St. Paul lives within a 10-minute walk of a Sidewalk Poem.

Since 2008, we have stamped more than 1,000 poems from a collection that now includes 63 individual pieces, all written by St. Paul residents. Sidewalk Poetry aspires to pave all of St. Paul’s sidewalks with poetry and to claim poetry as an essential city service.

We are excited to expand our collection and install more public art in the Twin Cities. We ask you, our community, to join us in this project to democratize public art. You can participate by submitting a poem (instructions below). Or, consider making a donation to support this project.

This art project was originated by Public Art Saint Paul City Artist Marcus Young in 2008, and started under the name “Everyday Poems for City Sidewalks.”

2021 Sidewalk Poetry Contest is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.  Sidewalk Poetry is also supported by by the McKnight, Hardenbergh, and Boss Foundations, the John and Ruth Huss Fund. Thank you as well to our generous donors who contributed to our ARTopia Fund-A-Need campaign for Sidewalk Poetry.




  • Anyone who is a resident of Saint Paul is eligible to submit poems.
    • You do not need to be a professional writer to submit a poem


  • Poems should be short, up to 300 characters, including spaces.
    • A writer can submit up to 2 poems.
    • We welcome poems written in Dakota, Hmong, Somali, and Spanish, reflecting the diversity of our city. On the submission form, writers who submit in one of these languages should include its English translation too.
    • Subject Matter: Writers should consider that these poems will appear in residential neighborhoods. People of all ages and backgrounds will stroll across and read these poems. These poems have the potential to create a moment of contemplation, spark insight, alter someone’s mood, bring smiles to their faces, evoke empathy, or perhaps change someone’s understanding of a experience or subject.
    • To submit, please fill out thisform.


  • Each winning poet will receive a $100 award.
    • Winners will be announced in late May.
    • Jurors will select up to 8 poems to join the collection.
    • Poems will be stamped into sidewalks starting in summer 2021 and continuing into future years.
    • A public reading will be arranged with the 2021 winning poets.


Click this link to explore the City of Saint Paul’s GIS data and live map.

go to www.stpaul.gov/sidewalkpoetrymap


2019 selected poems





¿te acuerdas cuando te empuje en ese carrito de compras en el parque?

tus dientes deslumbrantes, risas melifluas, ojos iridiscentes.

El Tiempo se volvió singular. Simultáneamente empezó, acabó, nunca paso, y sigue pasando.

Parte de mi sigue ahí, empujando ese carrito,



Do you remember when I pushed you through the park in that shopping cart?

Your dazzling teeth, mellifluous laughs, iridescent eyes.

Time became singular. It simultaneously began, finished, never happened, and is still happening.
Part of me remains there, pushing that cart,


– Roberto Sande Carmona (2019)




-David Bard (2019)


Don’t dismiss my neighborhood as
“Bad.”  Rich history exploited in the
Name of Progress.  Here children laugh,
Groups of teenagers swagger, and families
Gather on porches.  We live here, learn here,
Flourish here.  Like generations before us,
This is our home.

-Lauren Dwyer (2019)



I still look
for your

I tell
this is where
you’re from.

-Ellen Fee (2019)



My mother
puts garlic salt
on everything
sprinkling it on
she says
garlic makes it better,
she even puts it on me.
streaming down
covering me
salt in my wounds
she tastes me
and says,
still, not quite right,
she pours it on again
I know with each each
new pouring on
I am not perfect,
bitter in her mouth
the garlic burns.
– Claudia Kane-Munson (2019)



But before the early
bird eats the earth worm,

the worm dreams
of swallowing the earth

-Daniel Schauer (2019)



An elder Vietnamese woman
brushes my cheeks with her fingers;
repeating in Vietnamese,
“beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.”

But I don’t know what she thinks is beautiful.
Is it me or what I represent?

The generation of opportunity.
That her generation’s journey was worth it
and the hopes of the passed and left-behind
live on in my generation.

She looks through my eyes like windows
and I look into hers like mirrors.

-Amanda Tran (2019)



Trust digital dust to last 5 years. Look, see a tree older than—
Maybe that oak you see—utahuçaå—
Was climbed by a Dakota child before—
Perched, reading the seasons as you read these lines
Feeling the same thrum of weather and wood
Now cast in concrete communion for another 5 or 50 years?


Uta – acorn

Utahuçaå – oak tree

-Zachary Wilson (2019)


Los. Wb cog

lus ua ke ntawm

qhov chaw no.

English Translation

Come. Let us

make a vow to each other

in this place.

-May Lee-Yang (2019)

Honorable Mentions


How beautiful it is
that the stars remember
their same placement each night
like finding a familiar smile
in a sea of strangers

-Jaden Burns (2019)



La libélula vuela…
¿A dónde va la libélula?
En busca de más dragones
Que la acompañen en primavera.

(Translation: It’s a play on words between English and Spanish as Libélula translates Dragonfly which it’s similar to the Spanish word for Dragons, which it’s Dragones. This poem also a bit of a tongue-twister.)

The dragonfly flies…
Where is the dragonfly going?
Searching for more dragons
To accompany her in spring.

-Juliana Martinez-Farjado (2019)


2021 selected poems

Sidewalk Poetry 2021 Winning Poems



Haddii dadku isu yimaadaan oo midoobaan waxay hanan karaan oo hagaajin karaan cir dillaacay 


If people come together, they can even mend a crack in the sky.

– Filsan Ibrahim


Sending warmth if you are cold
Forgiveness if you are blamed
Justice if you are persecuted
Love around the globe

– Diana Leaskas


Dakota Language

Čhaŋté Wadítaka

Thokáta wičhóičhaǧe kiŋ,
Tókhetu thaŋíŋ šni kiŋháŋ dé abdéza; Wačhéuŋničičhiyapi,
Nakúŋ wóuŋničihdakapi!
Čhaŋté waníditake!
Nakáȟ, nihákab naúŋžiŋpi!


Heart Warriors

Grandchildren of the future:
When times are uncertain please know this.
We prayed for you,
we danced for you,
we sang for you,
we planted seeds for you,
and we spoke for you!
Your heart is strong!
And now, we stand behind you!

– Tanagidan To Win (Tara) Perron



La Poesía No es Lujo

La poesía no es lujo
para encerrar en un texto

Mi poesía urge
como urge el tiempo
Mi poesía ruge
como ruge el viento

El arte de mis palabras
no tiene precio
Y no esta de venta
el sonido de mis versos

Mi poesía es pobre
y aun así te alimento
Mi poesía es pan
para nutrir al pueblo.


Poetry but not for leisure 

Poetry is not a leisurely
trapping of words on a piece of paper

My poetry urges
like time urges
My poetry howls
the wind roars

The art of my words
      bears no price
And the sounds of these verses
      are not for sale

My poetry is poor
and even then it feeds you
My poetry is bread
to nurture the people 

– Dr. Gabriela Spears-Rico


I AM . . . Rondo and connected to a rich cultural history of unity, faith, and purpose.
I AM . . . my African roots. I AM . . . freedom and justice.

– Dr. Artika Tyner 


breathe in
I’m here

breathe out
I belong

– Dawn Wing



Cia lub ntiaj teb los ua koj lub vaj
Tus njuj neeg yog ib lub paj, xim twg los zoo
Txoj kev tsaus ntuj yuav tsis kav
Ib pliag xwb, cia nws dhau
Es lub paj mam nthuav


Let this world be your garden
Each person a flower, lovely in every hue
Darkness descends, but not for long
It is a season, so let it pass
And the peony opens

– Chong Yang


I need people
who will see my cracked self
and not try to play the hero
nor come swooping in
on the wings of “here, cheer up”
nor the mighty flexing arms of advice,
but will sit next to me
and wait for me
to sort out the pieces
while I glue myself together.

– Kyra Zimmerman

People's Chalk Edition 2020

Peoples’ Chalk Edition 2020

Join us in creating our Public Plaza through Sidewalk Poetry Peoples Chalk Edition 2020! One of our biggest outdoor canvases is our City sidewalks! As you venture out on walks, create surprise and delight with chalk poems on the sidewalk. We invite you to share your creative visions and voices to speak to our community.

Take some time to craft an original poem. What do you want to say in an artful way to your neighbors? When you’re ready, grab your chalk

and share your thoughts on Saint Paul sidewalks. Take a photo and Tag @publicartstpaul on Instagram so we can share your creativity.

Whether you’ve submitted to the Public Art Saint Paul’s Sidewalk Poetry Contest in the past or if this is all new to you, you can participate in the creation of a great temporary work of public art. No age limit!

We can’t wait to share all the new chalk poems! #peopleschalkedition #publicplaza.

If sidewalk chalk doesn’t work for you, write your poem on paper and share of photo of that. Illustrations as well as words are welcome!


This project is inspired by Public Art Saint Paul’s Sidewalk Poetry, an ongoing project in which St. Paul poets get their poems stamped into City sidewalks. More than 1,000 poems dispersed throughout the City. Our Chalk Edition is also is inspired by community members who have already started writing chalk messages during ths extended time at home with the COVID-19. Sidewalk Poetry was started by PASP City Artist Marcus Young in 2008 as Everyday Poems for City Sidewalk.


Poems & Poets

Download a PDF of the poetry collection here.




David Bard

Roberto Sande Carmona

Lauren Dwyer

Ellen Fee

Claudia Kane-Munson

Daniel Schauer

Amanda Tran

Zachary Wilson


Tio Aiken

Brianna Flavin

Denise Huynh

Polly Pampusch

Lauren Raheja

Lydia Rosenberg

2013 Poets
Susan Downing
Charles Matson Lume
Susan Olsson
Paige Riehl
Marcy Steinberg

2012 Poets
Alma Palahniuk
Emily Gurnon
James Lachowsky
Karen Trudeau
Donna Damalfi

2011 Poets
Michael E. Murphy
Michael Russelle
Sara Clark
Lillian Rupp
Louis DiSanto

2010 Poets
Pat Owen
Dallas Crow
Rachel Kowarski
Kevin Walker
Jeri Reilly

2009 Poets
Anna Everett Beek
Carol Connolly
Kurt Schultz
Marianne McNamara
Mary Davini
Pam Haas


2008 Poets
Eleanor Arnason
Sasha Aslanian
Caley J. Conney
Sean Fleming
Eileen O’Toole
Madeline Schuster
Ryan Ross
Margaret Hasse
Anna Renkin
Naomi Cohn
Terri Ristow
Esme Evans
Georgia Greeley
Zoe Jameson
Anne Piper
Carlee Tressel
Diego Vazquez, Jr.
KateLynn Hibbard
Patricia Kirkpatrick
Eyang Wu


Bring poetry to your city!

Public Art Saint Paul provides consultation services to nonprofits, municipalities, developers, and interested parties seeking to implement their own sidewalk stamping program. If you have questions about the detailed logistics of our program, please email colleen@publicartstpaul.org to arrange an appointment.

Fees will apply on a sliding scale based on your organizational tax status. 

Find Poetry Locations

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