Niagara Powerhouse by Joseph Housley


Source: Niagara Powerhouse by Joseph Housley was first published in Nashville Review, Issue 39, December 2022.

Joseph Housley’s poems have appeared in The New York Quarterly, Nashville Review, The Shore, and Sixth Finch, as well as other journals and anthologies. He was selected for a residency at Hewnoaks and received an MFA in poetry from The New School. He lives in Savannah, Georgia.

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Photo: Sun Shining Through the Mist at the Brink of the Horseshoe Falls, January 7, 2007 by Andrew Porteus


The Niagara Way of Death Presentation

Niagara way
Tonight (May 18) at 7pm I’ll be doing the online presentation “The Niagara Way of Death: Depictions of Death & Near Death in the Poetry of Niagara Falls” at the Niagara Poetry Guild meeting. Please join us through the link at Meetup 

Death is a pervasive topic in the poetry written about Niagara Falls. In the poetry of the 19th century, the Falls themselves were seen as a metaphor for death – the approach to death, the brink between life & death, the fall into purgatory, the ascension to heaven & the covenant between the human and the divine. See how the poetry of previous times as well as today reflect those metaphors, and how the 18 categories of death at Niagara Falls is treated in the poetry of the last 250 years.

Originally presented at the Lundy’s Lane Historical Society, Andrew Porteus will be sharing with us “The Niagara Way of Death: Depictions of Death and Near-Death Experiences at Niagara Falls” a 45 minute slide presentation.

Popular Cuture Association National Conference, 2023

Andrew Porteus Presenting at the PCA conference
Photo courtesy of Katie Manning

The last few days my wife, Louise and I have been in San Antonio, Texas, for the 53th annual Popular Culture Association / American Culture Association 53rd annual conference. I was presenting  “The Niagara Way of Death: Depictions of Death and Near-Death in the Poetry of Niagara Falls,” a more academic, but briefer version of a presentation that I had done at the Lundy’s Lane Historial Society meeting earlier in the week. The panel that I was on, “Poetry Studies & Creative Poetry IV: Forgetting What the Fox Says: Nature in Pop Culture” included presentations by Li Zhuang, Marlon Fick, and Gwen Hart. and the whole poetry stream of the PCA conference (8 sessions over 2 days) had been organized by Professor Katie Manning. It was a good combination of creative poetry and more theoretical presentations. One of the interesting discussions that followed was about overcoming imposter syndrome, the feeling that despite skills, talents, and accomplishments people have an internalized feeling of being a fraud. That feeling is what prompted me to get my MA degree in Popular Culture after I retired, to give solid academic credentials to the work that I have been doing for decades with the Niagara Falls Poetry Project. The stream ended with dinner at the Iron Cactus Mexican Grill, on the San Antonio RiverWalk.


Mission San José

Louise and I had never been to San Antonio before, so after the PCA sessions finished, we took the opportunity to explore the surroundings somewhat. The most notable feature was the RiverWalk, designed in the 1920s to control the flooding that happened on the river that snakes through San Antonio. The river is controlled by a series of sluice gates that can divert flood water from the area, keeping the water level stable even after torrential rains, which we did experience on the first two days of the conference. The RiverWalk is lined by bars, restaurants, shops, and some cultural attractions, including the Briscoe  Western Art Museum which features great paintings, statues, and artifacts of Texan culture, one of the highlights of our visit there. San Antonio was founded on the backs of 5 Spanish missions, including the Alamo. We took a tour of the 4 outlying missions in the rain one day, which included a stop at an aqueduct crossing the San Antonio River, notable because I say a yellow-crowned night-heron, a lifetime sighting for me. The next day the rain had stopped, the temperature was higher, and we took a guided tour of the Alamo, including the collection that Phil Collins, who has been fascinated by the Alamo since he was a young boy, had donated. 

Unfortunately, our time had to come to an end, so after a boat tour on the RiverWalk and a visit to the Mexican market, we headed to the airport.


The Hon. Wm. Hamilton Merritt by George Coventry

Born July 3, 1793 ; Died July 6, 1862, Aged 69 Years


William Hamilton Merritt
From the book Biography of the Hon. W. H. Merritt, M. P. by Jedediah Prendergast Merrritt
Image courtesy of Wikipedia

If, in thy wanderings o’er this beauteous earth,
….A solemn thought should contemplate the doom
Of minds inheriting intrinsic worth,
….Go mark the spot where Merritt lies entombed !

An active life, the path he sought aright
….For his adopted country ;—through each change
He watched its progress with intense delight ;
….His mind capacious took extensive range.

A wilderness around his boyish days,
….When first he strolled through woods so dense so green ;
He lived to see vast schemes matured, and gazed
….With pride and admiration o’er the scene.

The Lakes’ bold shores, the angry waters stayed,
….Were altered in their course by one great plan ;
After comingling opened wide a trade
….And commerce vast to high-aspiring man.

Still incomplete to meet his restless eye,
….Which ever beamed with generous emotion,
He soared beyond a bright Canadian sky
….To carry on our commerce o’er the ocean.

But Death, that intervenes to mar our hopes,
….Cut short his measures for the country’s weal ;
A funeral dirge at last, in moving tropes,
….Proclaimed at large what all survivors feel.

The loss of one so useful in his day,
….A chasm left that none can e’er supply ;
The mourners walk abroad, and wend their way
….Each to respective homes, to heave a sigh,

Exclaiming, “Truly, wonderful is death !—
….A silent monitor to each from birth—
A power that robs the human race of breath,
….And levels giant minds to mother earth.”

Many men of talent still that path pursue,
….Which our departed friend so wisely loved ;
Walk in his footsteps, with the self-same view ;
….And ultimately rest — rewarded above.

July 13, 1862

Source: St. Catharines Constitutional, July 17, 1862.

Many thanks to historian Dennis Gannon for bringing this poem to the NFPP curator’s attention.

William Hamilton Merritt had many ties to Niagara Falls: he served with the 2nd Lincoln Militia during the War of 1812, stationed at Chippawa; was the driving force behind the Welland Canal, which followed Chippawa Creek part of the way; and was a driving force behind the construction of the first suspension bridge across the Niagara River.

Read more about Merritt here and here.

Read about George Coventry here.

Coventry was a long-time employee and friend of Merritt.


Niagara Falls, I Do Not by Scott Manley Hadley

Still from Hadley’s Video Niagara Falls, I Do Not

Staring at the water
Beside the top of Niagara Falls
Thinking about throwing myself in.

My sister is visiting and I am exhausted by
Pretending I don’t want to die
Which makes me want death more.

I imagine my body smashing against the rocks
Being pummelled under by the water.

I see my
Floating down the river
On its back
Disgusting the other
Bodies that stand looking at geography
In this trash town
As if it means redemption.  

I stop myself
By thinking
What if I become a ghost.

What if
In this horrible world
Of horrible horrors
The punishment for suicide
Is an eternity on Earth?

I step away from the edge
And tell no one
How close I was
To jumping.

Source: Scott Manley Hadley, 2003

First recorded for Moonchild Magazine, 2019

Visit the website of Scott Manley Hadley