Niagara Falls Writer’s Festival

festivalThe Niagara Falls Writers’ Festival is fast approaching – it’s on October 19. It’s spread over 3 library branches, the Victoria Avenue Branch, the Stamford Centre Branch, and the Community Centre Branch. Please go to nfwritersfestival.com for more information.

Listen to scholar, journalist, and award-winning author Kathy Dobson talk about her bestselling books, With a Closed Fist: Growing Up in Canada’s Toughest Neighbourhood and  Punching and Kicking: Leaving Canada’s Toughest Neighbourhood and about memoir writing

Spring (In Forests Near Niagara) by Evelyn M. Watson

watson spring  

watson spring
Paradise Oak Park, Niagara-on-the-Lake, 1933. Photo courtesy Niagara Falls Public Library

(Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada)

How long have people smiled concerning Spring
And poets who make to her, an offering. . . .
As from the nascent mold, in thunder-riven
And water-tortured stone, a tree is given
So may my song be radiant — (for a season)
A shad-bush shining, its roots in earth’s old lesion,
Its bole, gray-brown, against the ice-blue sky,
Its fragrant festal torches swinging high. . .
So I ……………………………………. (if that I could, so I!)

And too, I’d give to you the water-song
Of surging streams that swiftly slip along
The silvered course, each rock a native gem,
But better, far, if that you visit them.
Oh, could I sketch, in fire, this ultimate
Outstanding loveliness, I’d hesitate
And with old reverence grow wisely mute
For Soul must see — there lives no substitute,
In words, for that first glossy green
Which garlands fairy twigs and springs between
Dark pads of moss, where even color smoulders
Like match-tip violets ‘mong ashen boulders
And here’s the flame of lingering snow, not wint’ry,
But evanescent crystals (gay and splint’ry
Encrustings) — vanishing in a rime of dew —
Those common beauties mind’s accustomed to.
Who claims we need more outer loveliness ?
We seek more poet-hearts, more consciousness
Of Inner Spring, till icy bonds must burst
And souls grow greatly with new hunger, thirst.

The early stars within their patterned fret,
The Dawn’s pastel from poplar minaret,
Have wrought, within, devout serenity
Yet stir me to a praying psalmody —
Where gray-cowled friar has chiseled deep
In rocks, the mystery of change and sleep
And death, one finds the sculptured esplanade
Brings near the warming sense of needed God.
And if it be the Day with jeweled light
Or that recurving dome of crystal night,
It seems not banal thus to pause to write
Of dusky folks who followed flowered trails
And ghostly paths where even twilight fails —
From legendary past they softly come
And pass to greet their own Elysium.
But here is present heaven, here are we
Aware of Paradise, and Instancy !
Awakened, as by sight of one quick tree —
The future, vision-wise, unspells, unfolds,
As some closed bud must yield its pollen golds
At last — as meditative moments flower
In lifted torches — so Spring’s lighted hour
Is like Annunciation, a held flood,
Or new-veiled ecstacies within the bud.

The Virgin’s season,  The Woman’s pregnant sign !
For wandering beams of beauty, fierce, divine,
Have stabbed earth vitally and she, the sheath
Of life’s triumphant sword, bears underneath
Her nuptial robes, so delicate and sheer,
The Living seed that justifies the year.

So now, the soul of Him seems even nearer
Than one’s own face within the curdled mirror
Of fretted water ; the lifted shad-flowers seem
To chord the melody of flame-blue stream
That chimes its silvery way among still rocks.
From fire-deep skies the migratory flocks
Of troubadors, those gay-winged messengers,
Now find cathedral lofts in oaks and firs,
And where June-berry censer sways and blows
They tell of Love in oratorios.

Delicate, wind-borne, is fragrance coming
To rhyme of wings, the hurrying and humming
Of insect life, in gossamer like elves,
Magicked from folded fronds on stony shelves.
And night, blue-velvet cloaked, and diamonded
But finds the clustered pearly shad-blooms hid
Against the moon’s serener, even pearl,
Or in an aureole of mist, a swirl
Of cloudy plumes that heavenly horsemen wear,
Notes Boreal spears and hears the whispering prayer
Of Spring, the Maiden-Joan, (the youthful saint,
Who frees the ice-hard earth, without complaint,
Who buds and flowers while from a stricken pyre
Rekindles earth with that triumphant fire.)

Then as shad-flowers fall, and deep desire
Must fade in fruiting, so the poet dies
Shadowed by graces he’d apostrophize.
The poet rill would bubble small, swift rhymes
As shad flowers, dying, sway like silent chimes.
Better the quiet bloom among tall trees
Lyric with their own mute symphonies —
Better the fallow deer in solitude —
The dun hare and shadowy squirrel that elude
The note of man — better the fronds that push
‘Gainst sleeping roots of some sky-seeking bush,
Than that I lift my tuneless voice to sing —
The world is right — to smile at songs of Spring.

 

Source: Evelyn M. Watson. Poems of the Niagara Frontier. New York: Dean & Company, 1929.

Click to see more poems from Watson’s Poems of the Niagara Frontier

watson spring

The Limit of Suspension by Jane Urquhart

urquhart limit   

urquhart limit
Upper Steel Arch Suspension Bridge. Photo courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library

On three small scraps of paper
grandmother writes

‡‡‡‡‡‡how the suspension bridge
‡‡‡‡‡‡fell down

‡‡‡‡‡‡how the cotton wool
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡crash
‡‡‡‡‡‡pulled her from
‡‡‡‡‡‡starched sheets to the
‡‡‡‡‡‡lung-stopping chill
‡‡‡‡‡‡of the january night

‡‡‡‡‡‡how her shoes squeaked
‡‡‡‡‡‡in the snow

and looking at the
suspension bridge
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡lying
broken-backed against the ice
like an injured dragon
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡grandmother

must have wondered at
each of her magic crossings

but writes here
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡only
the suspension bridge
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡fell down

and it did make a noise

Source: Urquhart, Jane. False Shuffles. Victoria: Press Porcépic, 1982. Section entitled The Undertaker’s Bride. 

Click to see more of Urquhart’s The Undertaker’s Bride poems 

The Suspension Bridge collapsed during a storm on the night of January 19, 1889

Grandmother Crosses by Jane Urquhart

urquhart grandmother
Cleaning the deck of the Upper Suspension Bridge. Photo courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library

urquhart grandmother
Grandmother crosses
the suspension bridge

she is seven years old
in the process
of eliminating
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡errands

she watches amazed
as the loaf of bread
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡she has carried
from the american side
slips from her hands

somersaults gently
to the rapids below

light
‡‡‡‡‡as an angel’s gold brick

eighty years later
the streetcars passing
on mainstreet
will bring to her mind
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡this bump of

rubber wheels
on wooden planks

as she rides her tricycle

thinking of home

Source: Urquhart, Jane. False Shuffles. Victoria: Press Porcépic, 1982. Section entitled The Undertaker’s Bride. 

Click to see more of Urquhart’s The Undertaker’s Bride poems

Glen Albert Near DeCew Falls by A Traveller

 

Glen Albert
Decew Falls by Miller’s Photographic Saloon – Possibly Chauncey C Miller, active in St. Catharines c. 1865-1868

Glen Albert ! How lovely thy beautiful scene —
As lovely to me as a nymph of sixteen,
All blushing with health and unconscious of guile,
‘Tis a foretaste of Eden to bask in thy smile ;
To list in suspense to the sound of thy falls —
Hearing nature’s sweet music in nature’s own halls,
While the hue-changing leaves by the zephyr caressed,
Murmur softly and sweetly a sigh of love bless’d.
Though the sun’s glowing rays gild the woods on thy heights,
In thy depths far below there’s a gloom that delights,
Where the wandering traveller, wearied with care,
Can pause in thy Glen and find solitude there —
There alone in thy bosom, from tumult apart,
He can have a fit place to commune with his heart.
Proud Niagara calls him with voice loud and bold,
And lures to her falls, as the siren of old.
But thy sparkling cascades, gushing smiles mixed with tears,
Cause so modern Ulysses to stop up his ears.
Here retired from the haunts of fashion and crime,
Thou art seen in thy loveliness, truly sublime;
E’en in history’s page thou did’st shine long ago
When our heroes stood by thee to ward off their foe,
And a ‘Merritt’ held post after Beaver Dam fight,
Thou did’st bravely assist with a Spartan girl’s might
Let the foreigner share in Niagara’s roar,
That with menacing fury growls “Dieu et mon Droit,”
Yet Glen Albert ! the bird that loves its own nest
For a love — all its own — sure will love thee the best.

Source: Courtesy Dennis Gannon.

Poem clipped from an unknown and undated newspaper,  pasted to the back of the photograph above.

See more poems of the Battle of Beaverdams and the War of 1812 in Niagara