Mrs. Anna Edson Taylor, Goddess of Water by P.M. Reynolds

reynolds taylor
Annie Edson Taylor and her Barrel. Photo courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library

Since earth’s creation down the stormy way,
All human feats have been surpassed today.
Mrs. Edson Taylor, in her barrel sound,
Through the wild rapids did in safety bound.

Peerless Niagara to maddened fury grew,
Raging more strongly not to let her through.
But on she went and all the rapids crossed;
By their turbulence she was roughly tossed.

Her venturous voyage still she did pursue,
With undaunted courage nearing the horseshoe.
Once at its brink, a second seemed to stop,
Then came the awful and the wondrous drop.

In her barrel, victorious and alone,
As when great Vulcan was from Heaven thrown,
A minute later on placid waters green
In rising foam the barrel then was seen.

Fast heading inland for the rocky shore,
As from fifty thousand came a cheerful roar.
Time’s wide dial, her brilliant name will show
Till time’s no more, as on the ages go.

Cataract Journal, October 28, 1901.

Source: Whalen, Dwight. The Lady Who Conquered Niagara: The Annie Edson Taylor Story. Brewer, Maine: EGA Books, 1990.

Woman in a Barrel, About To Go Over Niagara Falls by Kathleen M. Heideman

Annie Edson Taylor
Annie Edson Taylor about to go over Niagara Falls. Photo courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library

Some math problems, they come with assumptions and pencils
e.g.: here’s a black and white photograph, with blank spots to fill: _______.
First, you’re standing in it, the river equation. “It” in this case is a boat above Niagara Falls,
X, hundreds of feet above the point of falling. You’re holding something – a floating barrel.
A woman’s head is still visible. Solve for her heart, friend

– it doesn’t matter if that’s a pencil in your hand, or a nail. The barrel wants to move,
it’s rushing by – your life, her life! You start to say something, but the woman is
humming. No words – just open throat and breathing. Your heart is
hammering against the barrel of your chest, “uhm uhm uhm”……
Well, maybe no drumming but the thunder of water. Hard to tell,
but there’s a shoreline. You’re on the edge of something large here,

like it or not, and let’s not forget to mention it’s autumn. She’s hungry.
Did I mention harvest? Not all women are equal – elsewhere, at dawn, your mother
was kneeling midway down in a long row of frost-bitten tomatoes,
perfumed by crushed vines, each fruit twisting until it released itself to hunger.
Some women – their house holds a kitchen table full of mason jars, an ordered emptiness
longing for content. And the woman in the barrel?
Call her anything you want: Madame Need. Ms. Curiosity.

She’s humming, yes – can you hear her? That old cellar song.
“Uhm” suggests hunger is a factor in this math equation. No apples,
so she fills the barrel with herself. The hand holding onto the barrel has an impressive vita,
a man who knows how to hold a hammer, pick tomatoes, paddle, use a pencil.
His hand, I mean, should know this gesture – how to solve for X.
You ask “why the Falls?”, you repeat yourself, but there’s no reply…
Sound of thundering water. She fell for him. The problem is like a blank postcard,
Continue reading “Woman in a Barrel, About To Go Over Niagara Falls by Kathleen M. Heideman”

Choices by Jan Conn

Jan Conn, photo by Stacy Greene
Jan Conn, photo by Stacy Greene

the falls spill over grey walls of rock,
a repeated hallucination. marble green water
unfurls white crinolines of foam that
cascade over the edge like five thousand
angels in anklets of lace.

churning in the river’s jaw
like loosened teeth, chunks of ice
jostle each other near the lip
of boiling water, then grind
and shatter far below.

once a man crossed this on a tightrope —
others rolled over in barrels. some
survived, some dreamed over and over
white water caught in the grapes of their lungs.

last year a woman dropped her child
over the black rail. was slow
to scream for help. exposure
takes too long, she said.

all night the child’s fingers
climbed the bedroom walls
like the knuckles of spiders.
the mother bathed in moonwater,
wanted to live in the mouth of a rose.
the child was an octopus, hungry
for love or milk. she provided milk.
love was a luxury.

we walk between twisted trees,
make starts of conversation.
wind whips sheets of snow
over dead grass; pares our faces
thin as paper.

we lean over the rails, stare down
until the water shifts, begins to fall
up. spray beads our hands, we reel
like drunken boats. we’re not yet sure
why we’re here. a sign nearby says
keep back. it doesn’t say
don’t jump.

Source:Mary di Michele (ed.) Anything is Possible: a Selection of Eleven Women Poets. Oakville: Mosaic Press, ©1984

Jan Conn’s website

Queen of the Mist by John Joseph O’Regan

Annie Edson Taylor, Queen of the Mist, with her barrel and her cat. Photo courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library
Annie Edson Taylor, Queen of the Mist, with her barrel and her cat. Photo courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library
All hail to the Queen of the Mist,
     Brave Anna Edson Taylor;
She has beaten all former records,
     By her courage, grit and valor.

This great heroine of our nation,
     Has won both fortune and fame;
Now people all over creation,
     Will praise this illustrious dame.

On the twenty-fourth day of October,
     In the year ninteen hundred and one;
The Queen of the Mist in a barrel,
     The risk of her life did run.

Over the wonderful Horseshoe Falls,
     Where the waters roar like thunder;
The barrel leaped within sight of all,
     With our intrepid lady wonder.

Annie Taylor being assisted out of the barrel after going over Niagara Falls. Left is stunter Carlisle Graham, right is riverman Red Hill.  Photo courtesy <a href=
Niagara Falls Public Library” width=”285″ height=”300″ class=”size-medium wp-image-822″ /> Annie Taylor being assisted out of the barrel after going over Niagara Falls. Left is stunter Carlisle Graham , right is riverman Red Hill. Photo courtesy Niagara Falls Public Library

Down through the surging, foaming deep,
     She came in her barrel of oak;
The crowd with rapturous cheers did leap,
     When she was taken out and spoke.

This brave woman, who knows no deception,
     Did what no one did before;
And was given a hearty reception,
     When she landed safe on shore.

Here’s to the Lady of the Cataract,
     Who has Spartan grit and valor;
Thrice, all hail, Queen of the Mist,
     Brave Anna Edson Taylor.

She has beaten the world’s record,
     Her praises we will sing;
Although a little disfigured,
     She is certainly still in the ring.

Niagara Gazette. October 26, 1901.

Source: Whalen, Dwight. The Lady Who Conquered Niagara: The Annie Edson Taylor Story. Brewer, Maine: EGA Books, 1990.

Learn more about Annie Edson Taylor

Signor Farini by Ian Bell

“The Great Farini” walking on his tightrope, 1860

High overhead at the peak of the barn,
A ragged tin rooster is raising the dawn;
Along with the creature of curious grace,
Who takes his position and rests in his place,
And then with the slightest of smiles on his face,
He raises a foot and steps off into space.

Chorus:

Oh for an ounce of the courage I lack,
Oh for the feel of the wind at my back,
Oh for a tongue to cry passion and fire,
Signor Farini is walking the wire
Farini so high on the wire

The Great Farini walking the tightrope, 1860

Walking on air with the greatest of ease,
A tangle of barn swallows sharing the breeze.
Down from the lightning rod out to the tree,
Quick pirouttes and a bow from the knee.
Don’t breathe a word of the things that you see,
Nobody knows him like you and like me

Chorus

Better to follow the long straight path,
Better to walk than to fly,
This field is too narrow to cut a wide swath,
Better to look to your feet than the sky,
Better look to your feet not the sky
Not the sky.

Up on the wire can you still smell the ground?
High, up so high can you still hear the sound
That comes from the people who all look so small,
Searching the sky with their backs to the wall
Hands in their pockets and necks craned so tall,
Patiently waiting to see if you fall?

Signor Farini stunting on the tightrope at Niagara Falls, 1860

Chorus

Source: Ian Bell and The Dawnbreakers. Signor Farini and Other Adventures, Paris, Ont.: Free Range Recordings, ©2000.

The Dawnbreakers are: Kate Murphy, Brian Pickell, Geoff Somers, with Dave Zdriluk and Anne Lederman

Click here to hear Ian Bell and The Dawnbreakers singing Signor Farini

Click here to contact Ian Bell to purchase the CD Signor Farini and Other Adventures

Images courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library’s Historic Niagara Digital Collections