Niagara Falls Library Column by Joe Longo

Writings about Niagara Falls has a long history – the first mention is in Samuel de Champlain’s descriptive writings of 1604 (even though he never saw the Falls), which also includes the first reference to Niagara Falls in a poem. Since then, travel writings, poems, plays, songs, and novels have all been written about the Falls.

Niagara Falls Public Library Chief Librarian, Joe Longo

The literature of Niagara Falls is the focus of an upcoming television episode of “Imprint”, airing on TVOntario at 11 p.m. December 13 and repeated Dec. 18 and 19 at 3:30pm and Dec. 20 at 2pm.

Governor-General Award winning author Jane Urquhart, author of “The Whirlpool” amongst other books, will discuss the literature of the Falls from a novelist’s perspective. Linda Revie, lecturer at the University of Guelph and author of “The Niagara Companion: Explorers, Artists, and Writers at the Falls, From Discovery Through the Twentieth Century” will discuss the early travel writings of Niagara. In addition, our own Andrew Porteus, Manager of Adult Reference and Information Services and compiler of the Niagara Falls Poetry Project ( will discuss the poetry of Niagara Falls.

On the Niagara Falls Poetry Project website are over 500 poems about the Falls. Many of these were collected from books in the library, while others have been tracked down in magazines and other materials not owned by the library. This makes it a unique resource of the social, cultural, and literary history of Niagara Falls.

The Project was undertaken because Porteus realized that many of these poems were buried in other works, such as engineering conference proceedings, and may never be available unless a dedicated effort was made to bring them to light.

Poetry books of Niagara Falls available to borrow include “Queen of the Mist” by Joan Murray, “Torrente Prodigioso: A Cuban Poet at Niagara Falls” with the writings of Jose Maria Heredia, and “The Poetry of Old Niagara” compiled by Kevin McCabe.

Novels about the Falls include Tom Marshall’s “Voices on the Brink: a Border Tale”, Joyce Carol Oates’ “The Falls: A Novel,” and “Niagara” by Robert Lewis Taylor.

Source: Niagara Falls Review, December 11, 2004

Joe Longo was the Chief Librarian of the Niagara Falls (Ont) Public Library