The History of Niagara Falls Through Poetry by Alison Langley

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Niagara Falls Public Library’s Victoria Avenue branch. – Torstar file photo

When Andrew Porteus came across a poem about Niagara Falls in an old book on engineering, he was intrigued.

As manager of adult reference and information services at Niagara Falls Public Library, he knew it was unlikely anyone else would read the poem.

“I realized it wouldn’t be seen again, except by accident, so I put it in a vertical file at the library,” he recalled.

“I started finding more in odd places, and collected them.”

Now, more than 20 years later, the retired librarian has amassed more than 300 poems relating to Niagara Falls.

“… and I have tons more to put up.”

Porteus created a website — niagarapoetry.ca — to share his poetry project with others.

The collection includes “Niagara” by Jose Maria Heredia.

“He’s one of the best known Latin American poets and this poem helped solidify his reputation,” Porteus said.

There’s a plaque dedicated to Heredia at the Table Rock Welcome Centre.

On Friday, January 3 he’ll present “An incomplete and non-comprehensive history of Niagara Falls through poetry” at the Victoria Avenue library starting at 7 p.m.

The free event will look at some of the major events that occurred in Niagara Falls over the years.

The stunters and daredevils, the Battle of Lundy’s Lane, the Hermit of Niagara, everyday life in the city, the bridges, trains, honeymoons and deaths will all be covered.

Porteus will be doing a similar presentation in April at the Popular Culture Association of America conference in Philadelphia. He’s also developing a poetry walking tour based on the Poetry Project.

 

Published in the Niagara Falls Review, December 29, 2019 langley

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