Celebrating National Poetry Month With a Niagara Falls Flavour by Alison Langley

Daffodils in Front of the Illuminated American Falls. Photograph by Andrew Porteus

Alison Langley, a reporter for the Niagara Falls Review has written an article about Andrew Porteus and the Niagara Falls Poetry Project to help celebrate National Poetry Month.  The article has been reprinted below. See the original article here

As the former manager of adult reference and information services at Niagara Falls Public Library, Andrew Porteus would often come across poems about Niagara Falls in unusual places.

After reading a poem about the Falls in an old book about engineering, he realized its audience was extremely limited, other than people who came across it by accident like he did.

To that end, he copied the poem and created a file dedicated to Niagara Falls poetry. Each time he came across another poem, he’d add it to the file.

More than 20 years after discovering that obscure poem in an engineering book, the file now includes more than 500 poems relating to Niagara Falls.

And, there’s lots more out there yet to be discovered, said Porteus, a retired librarian who recently completed his master of arts degree at Brock University.

“… there are still a ton out there,” he said.

His Niagara Falls Poetry Project can be found online at niagarapoetry.ca. The site receives between 750 and 1,500 hits monthly.

The project has become part of the poetry in place movement, which highlights poems that give the reader a sense of a location as opposed to a concept.

“I know one person is using the site for the university project and I suspect some university instructors are finding it and students are looking at it as well,” Porteus said.

The substantial collection includes what is believed to be the first poem to reference Niagara Falls, “Untitled” by Le Sievr de la Franchise, from 1604.

The catalogue includes “Niagara, Seen on a Night in November” by Adelaide Crapsey.

How frail

Above the bulk

Of crashing water hangs,

Autumnal, evanescent, wan,

The moon.

Crapsey is known as the inventor of the cinquain, a poem of five short lines of unequal length. She died in 1914 and her poems were published posthumously.

Porteus regularly updates the site and welcomes submissions of original poems about Niagara Falls, and from Niagara poets.

Recent additions include C.D. Onofrio’s “Italian Angel of Gelato,” inspired by the Italian Ice Cream shop on Victoria Avenue, and F.J. Doucet’s “My Grandmother was a Waitress in Niagara Falls.”

Porteus has also added an interactive map marking specific locations linked with specific poems. Each “pin” on the map includes a poem or two and some interesting facts about the area.

There’s also a Poetry Walking Tour of Niagara Falls app available on the site.

“It makes for a more interesting experience of the Falls if you are interested in poetry,” Porteus said.

“It’s sort of combining different aspects of the Falls together to make one experience.”

April is National Poetry Month, and Porteus encourages people to check out the site to celebrate poetry and its important place in Canadian culture.

National Poetry Month began in the U.S. in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets.

Members handed out copies of T.S. Elliot’s “The Waste Land,” which begins “April is the cruelest month …” to people waiting in line to mail their tax returns.

SCA Chemical Waste Services Speak to the People of Niagara, Regarding Run-Off From the Love Canal by Kevin McCabe

Love Canal Hazardous Waste Site

Not shy, but loath to cause upset,
Your present outrage we regret;
But, though your fears have touched our heart,
We feel we’ve chose the better part.
‘Tis indiscreet to smite the pate
Of one who may retaliate;
And international law decrees
Against abuse of enemies—
But law and profit each commends
The peaceful poisoning of friends.

Source: Kevin McCabe. Canadian Topics: Poems About Canada, 1967-2017. St. Catharines: Blarney Stone Books, 2017
“In honour of our sesquicentennial”

Read about the Love Canal disaster here

The History of Niagara Falls Through Poetry by Alison Langley

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

See the article here